The Pollinator Study Garden

Epilobium canum ssp. 'Canum'

 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 long-legged stilt bugs, and even 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 that normally-unseen microbial world. They spent the fall 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.
  • 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.

Junior lab specialist sampling fuchsia

  • A single California fuchsia can create hundreds of flowers. This plant is pictured alongside common floral sampling equipment. Flowers are harvested in the field and kept cool before nectar is extracted in the lab.
  • This image shows Tobias Mueller (Junior Specialist from the Vannette Lab) sampling flowers at the Pollinator Study Garden.

 

 

 

 

Red Fuschia

  • 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.

 

 

 

insect eggs on 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.

 

 

 

 

 

taking nectar samples

  • Flowers are harvested in the field and kept cool before nectar is extracted in the lab.

  • A skipper butterfly investigating flowers that have been collected by Vannette lab researchers.

 

 

 

 

Nectar samples

  • Nectar samples collected from California Fuchsia at the PSG. Nectar chemistry (demonstrated by color here) and microbiome differ greatly among flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

Agar gel plates to culture nectar microbes

  • 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.