Late summer is just as important for bees as spring. Often there is a gap in flowers in the garden as the new Queen bees emerge looking for nectar. Perennial plants are a good way to fill this gap and one of the great bee plants for this time of year is Echinacea, the purple cone flower. It’s usually a magenta pink in colour, but there are also pale pink and even greeny white varieties.
Echinacea is a great garden plant. You can grow it from seed, but it can become food for slugs, which will feed on the young tender leaves and shoots. Established plants are more resistant to slugs and snails and will produce several stems of flowers each year. Flowers can last for weeks and even when the petals have fallen, the structural shape of the seed heads adds interest in winter.
In the centre of the flower is a protruding cone, packed with lots of tiny florets rich in nectar. If you smell the flower, the scent is strongly of honey, which could explain why this flower is a magnet for bees.
Large bumblebees can land on the open flowers, and feed efficiently moving around the flower head soaking up nectar. It’s a great plant to stake out on a sunny day to see what species visit the flowers.