Epilobium canum ssp. 'Canum'

The Pollinator Study Garden

Project Overview

The pollinator study garden (PSG) is composed of 15 blocks planted with native species. PSG will serve as both an educational and research site. 

Current PSG Research

California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum) is a highly variable plant that differs in size, shape, vegetation color, and floral structure across California. It is an excellent water efficient native plant, and can act as a hub for ecological interactions in your garden. It feeds birds and bees with its prolific nectar, provides cover and food for bugs, and hosts a community of microbes that feed and grow inside of its flowers.

  • As part of a project funded by the National Science Foundation, researchers from the Vannette Lab, UCD Entomology and Nematology, are testing how this plant's variable floral traits shape their inner microbial world. They have spent the last two falls sampling naturally occurring nectar microbes and inoculating them into the flowers of California Fuchsia varieties from across the state that are planted in the Pollinator Study Garden at the Western Center for Agricultural Engineering.
  • They have found that different cultivars host different microbial communities, and that some of these differences are likely driven by differences in microbial dispersal.  Further, a small handful of individual plants have significantly higher and lower microbial densities than others. This work will help scientists understand how differences among individuals within a single plant species shape a flower's microbiome and will contribute to our basic understanding of these important but understudied microbial communities.
  • Most recently scientists are using manipulative experiments of microbial community to explore how variation in microbial community among plants might shape pollination. Scientists are quantifying differences in pollen receipt among flowers that contain different microbes.


A student stands near large fuchsia bushes collecting data
This image shows Tobias Mueller (Junior Specialist from the Vannette Lab) sampling flowers at the Pollinator Study Garden.


Data collection of fuchsia pollen
Researchers bag the flowers to exclude floral visitors (primarily bees and hummingbirds at the PSG). When animals drink nectar from flowers they also transport a diverse array of microbes, these mesh enclosures allow researchers to limit that dispersal.


Rows of insect eggs at the base of a wilted Fuchsia flower
California fuchsia hosts a diverse community of organisms. These are likely the eggs of hemipterans (true insects) that are abundant at the Pollinator Study Garden.
Fuchsia nectar samples lined up in small plastic vials
Nectar samples collected from California Fuchsia at the PSG. Nectar chemistry (demonstrated by color here) and microbiome differ greatly among flowers.


Stakes of gel plates for culturing Fuchsia pollen and nectar
Nectar is extracted from flowers in sterile conditions in the lab, and plated on agar plates that allow researchers to identify and quantify microbes in nectar.


The PSG is also home to some Monarch Butterfly Studies being carried out by Dr. Louie Yang and his students. The Yang Lab is currently assessing the effects of drought and water stress on milkweed-monarch interactions and phenology.

Even though PSG has only been recently established, the Yang Lab has found Monarch eggs and a couple of adults butterflies. Dr. Louie Yang reports that it's encouraging to find Monarchs on a new new milkweed population so quickly given the very low monarch densities overall! 

For more information on Monarch Butterfly studies at the CCUH, visit our Butterfly Study Garden Page.

A close up shot of a monarch butterfly egg on the underside of a milkweed leaf
A Monarch egg attached to the underside of a Showy Milkweed leaf.



A large Monarch larva on the underside of a narrowleaf milkweed leaf
Monarch larva on the underside of a Narrow Leaf Milkweed leaf.


Monarch larvae fed on the leathery sliver green leaves of a showy milkweed plant
If you look closely, you can see a couple of Monarch larvae feeding on the leaves of this adult showy milkweed plant.


An adult Monarch butterfly sits perched on a wooden post against a jet black background
A close up of an adult Monarch settled on a wooden post.