Did you know Minnesota has a state bee? The Rusty Patched Bumblebee (B. affinis) is a charismatic little insect with a band of coppery fur on its abdomen. But it’s facing some steep challenges due to habitat loss, and is currently listed as endangered in the United States and Canada. With this plight in mind, the Friends of Lashbrook Park in Northfield are taking action to improve its chances, with help from a grant from Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota.
This spring, the Friends began planting bee-friendly wildflowers in a patch of woodland at the edge of Lashbrook Park. They chose spring ephemeral flowers, including wild geranium, wood betony, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit, as well as several tree saplings. These will complement the park’s summer-blooming flowers and provide the variety that native pollinators depend on throughout their life cycles.
The challenges facing the bumblebee come from the spread of diseases, the over-application of pesticides, habitat loss, and climate change. So, when ten blocks of forested land near Lashbrook Park were leveled for development, the Friends understood the negative implication for the bumblebee. The $2,500 grant from Parks & Trails Council’s Friend Group grant, along with $495 in matching funds from the Friends, enabled them to purchase the plants, mulch, and protective cages.
On June 3, nearly 20 volunteers participated in the planting day, including the Northfield city horticulturalist and members of the Lashbrook family, who flew in from as far afield as Michigan and New York. The planting date proved fortuitous, coming after a heavy bout of rain that left the soil moist and easily turned with a spade. It was a hot, humid day, and there were plenty of mosquitoes to go around, but many hands made light work. All 150 plants were put in the ground, covered in a layer of protective mulch, and given a second bout of watering by 11 am.
After the event, participants worked together to put away planting equipment, and Friends Group President Laurie Olson handed out gift cards to attendees as a token of gratitude. By the time everyone made their way back up the grassy pathways of Lashbrook Park, the woodland section of the park was enriched by a carpet of spring ephemerals and the twiggy silhouette of new trees.
Breanna Wheeler, who helped write the grant to P&TC, sent out a sign-up sheet after the event. The City will be supplying a water tank onsite, and the hope is that volunteers can keep the new plantings watered throughout what is already shaping up to be a long, hot summer. The Friends are optimistic, though; if the planting event proved anything, it’s that there are many people out there who care about Lashbrook Park.
This project was part of P&TC’s Habitat Grant Program for our Friends Group Partners. In 2023 P&TC awarded four grants totaling $10,000.
Photos: Breanna Wheeler and Deb Lashbrook