Since a few years, I have been growing White Bryony, Bryonia dioica, in my garden. It is a perennial and poisonous plant. The flowers are dioecious which means that individual flowers are either male or female. The male flowers are much larger compared to the female ones. It climbs to about 4 metres high and in my garden it climbs over an old Weigelia and Wild privet. It likes calcareous soils. It flowers from May until September which makes it a very valuable plant.
In my garden, it is one of the best plants for attracting pollinators: Tree bumblebees, Buff-tailed bumblebees, Early bumblebees, honeybees and many species of solitary bee like this leafcutter bee visit the flowers.
The male flowers are more eye catching and I like the greenish/ white flowers. Bees seem to be collecting both pollen and nectar. Below a photograph of a solitary bee species called Lasioglossum sexnotatum female busy collecting pollen.
Honeybee gathering pollen
Bombus pratorum nectaring
It is a fascinating plant. On a warm summer’s day, I sat nearby and watched the various species of bee foraging on this plant. In this way, I am doing my bit to reverse the declining bee population and it feels good!
Andrena florea is a specialist bee: It is a monolectic bee which means that when it comes to collecting pollen, the female is restricted to a single plant species for pollen: Bryonya alba. Without the plant, the bee cannot survive. The plant will also benefit because this bee will transfer pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers.