In celebration of National Wildflower Week, we're highlighting some of our favorite "weird and wonderful" plants for pollinators. You can find the best plants for pollinators anytime with our plant lists.
Also known as wild feverfew, wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) has a long history of medicinal use by Native Americans and the US Army. During World War I, wild quinine was used as a substitute for the bark of the Cinchona tree—as the active ingredient of quinine used to treat malaria.
The plant seems to have no trouble with heat—blooming June through September in hot, sunny locations. While the plant is not especially showy, the tiny white clusters of flowers attract nearly every walk of life. The plant is especially valuable for its support of native bees, attracting sweat bees (Halictus, Lassioglossum, and Agapostemon), mining bees (Andrena), small carpenter bees (Ceratina) and yellow-faced bees (Hylaeus) just to name a few.
Wild quinine is a fly favorite, attracting soldier flies (Stratiomys and Odontomyia), Syrphid flies (Syrphidae), Tachnid flies (Tachnidae), and others. Far from the common housefly, these flies are both pollinators and predators. In their larval form, many of these flies are valuable pest-eating insects.
As an ornamental, wild quinine may be overlooked in favor of showier plants—its slender habit and tiny bright white flowers make it easy to mix in as “filler” among other plants like baby’s breath in a bouquet. The plant mixes especially well with orange butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa). The two plants will grow without competing with one another and look marvelous when in bloom together.
Best for: Supporting a treasure-trove of tiny pollinators including predatory wasps, flies, and solitary bees.
Native Range: Most of the eastern states except Maine, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Florida.