Big Native – Big Habitat

Last year I planted a Cow Parsnip (a native) in my rain garden.  It had already bloomed for the year, so I didn’t really appreciate how big it could get.  Well, now that it is a new year I can see- it is the huge plant shown above with the large white flower umbrella tops.

How much wildlife can one huge native plant attract?  Since the flowers are so large and numerous, an incredible variety of pollinators visited.

Honey Bees have been regular visitors, and that’s what most people usually expect to see.  But there are other important pollinators out there.

Flies!  Believe it or not, flies are actually very important pollinators as well.  I got very close and could see their siphons drinking up nectar in the flowers.

Pollinators weren’t the only ones attracted to the flowers though.  Predators followed close behind.  I saw several spiders crawling around- some like the one shown above, and some were crab spiders that blended with the white flowers.

Hunting on the stalks were quite a few Western Blood-red Ladybird Beetles.  They were eating the aphids that were drinking out of some of the plant stalks.

Even at the bottom of the Cow Parsnip is evidence of animal life.  See the strips of skin that have been peeled away?

This one native plant has added a nice variety of wildlife to my yard.  So if you’re struggling with how to begin growing your own wildlife garden, it’s OK to start small.  Try planting just one plant that can support wildlife and watch what comes to visit.  I promise you that it won’t take long for you to be hooked and looking for new places in your yard to add more habitat.

© 2012 – 2013, Mike Bezner. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. says

    Thanks for mentioning this plant, it looks awesome. I’ve been thinking about giving it a try, if I kind find room for it. Maybe an excuse to dig up more lawn! I love “big” plants, they’re great conversation starters.
    Julie Stone recently posted..True or False?

  2. Ed Colahan says

    What an awesome plant! Just one of those would take up the lion’s share of my garden, but I may need to find room anyway. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Sue Sweeney says

    I adore cow parsnip, which does grow naturally here in southern CT, but only in select sunny, moist but well-drained locations with deep alluvial soil. How did you start it? Seed or plant?

  4. Carole says

    Well said, I could get so much more done if I didn’t spend so much time observing the life coming to the plants.

  5. says

    that is one beautiful plant. I checked and it must not like the heat. not found in FL, TX and a few others in the S.E. I’m very jealous!

    That is great advice to start small. People hold off doing the planting because they don’t know where to start or they think they need to create a completely landscaped garden all at once. When I do the outreach programs I tell those seeking information to pick one native plant to add to their garden and once that is in the ground try another. There is no time limit on gardening~
    Loret recently posted..Condo living for bluebirds?

  6. says

    I have been “researching” this plant after having seen it thriving in a shady setting–demonstrating exactly what a need, a large plant with great impact in a shady location. I have been made aware, however, of some cautions to be kept in mind about it. First, it can have some very bad effects on human skin. If the plant comes into contatct with your skin and you are subesequently exposed to sunlight it can cause problems. In addition, it is easily confused with the nonnative hog giant hogweed which is also very harmful to humans (maybe even more so?).


  1. […] about this spider shown above in my Cow Parsnip?  What kind is it?  Its two pairs of front legs are quite a bit larger than its rear legs.  This […]

  2. […] posted a few times on the Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens site about my Cow Parsnip plant and the incredible […]

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