Note: The ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the authors' and should not be ascribed to the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes or its members. On August 5, 2021, we archived old blog posts. You can find the archive by clicking here.
Wishing on a Shootingstar in No Mow May
This year is the first year that Fond du Lac City Council has approved the opportunity for residents to participate in “No Mow May.” The trend began in the UK and has been gaining traction in Wisconsin over the past few years as a way to begin a journey toward more biodiversity in lawns. CSA’s property has large pockets of land that provide habitat and food to pollinators, so not mowing the turf grass was not expected to provide many additional benefits. The grass in itself does not support biodiversity, it is the flowering plants within it that are of use to early spring pollinators. For homeowners who spray their lawns to remove any broadleaf plants, no mow May provides no benefit to pollinators, since there is no food for them in the turfgrass. Large sections of the area closest to the motherhouse are uniform turfgrass and are usually mowed throughout the year. However, there was a desire to show support for the movement and provide a visual cue of that support. With that in mind, three sections of the lawn areas were designated as “no mow” sites for the month of May, while the other lawn areas were mowed as usual.
On March 12, a staff member spotted something new in one of the three sections. A pink blossom sitting atop tall stems poking out of a rosette of green leaves: a Shootingstar. Shootingstar plants are spring ephemeral plants native to Wisconsin, meaning they bloom very briefly in the spring before losing their blossoms and going dormant for the summer with only the broad leaves remaining. These plants are part of the Dodecatheon family and are called Shootingstars because of the shape of their flowers. While they do not provide food (nectar) for visiting queen bees, they do provide pollen which is used to feed their larvae, ultimately ensuring the survival of their nest. Pollen collection on these plants is a site to see and hear! Because of the shape of the blossoms, bees collect the pollen through a process called “Buzz Pollination.” They push their bodies against the tip of the flower and vibrate their wings to shake the pollen out of the narrow tube. This same process is vital for pollinating the tomatoes and blueberries we eat later in the summer.
As the week progressed, many more individual plants came into bloom, which would never have happened if the lawn area had been mowed. The plants that have been discovered will be transplanted to areas where they won’t be in danger of mowing in future years and will be sure to feed just-awoken queen bees for years to come. A wonderful No Mow May success story!