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Sassafras for Polinators

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. A plant usually seen as a large shrub that fits into a permanent native pollinator area is sassafras.   It can become a large tree, but is most often seen as on edges of fields and roadsides in a smaller size. Sassafras has male and female flowers on separate plants, female flowers yield carbohydrate rich nectar; pollen from male flowers is high in protein and fat. A large array of flies visit the flowers, we sometimes forget that flies also are important pollinators, but small bees feed on sassafras, too.  Butterflies and moths also serve as pollen transporters, and sassafras is a larval food source for two swallowtail butterflies species and several moths. While you’re walking your bee pasture, you can marvel at the three different shapes of leaves, called polymorphism that sassafras exhibits, and enjoy their beautiful fall color.   

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.