The tarweeds have a bad reputation. It all started with the name-- to me the resin smells buttery and lemony. To whoever named the plant, it smells like tar.
Then there’s the “weed”. (Don’t get ecologists started on this word). To many people, weeds are plants that are inherently unwelcome.
So that bring us to today, where the very qualities that make tarweed one of our most impressive native plants-- resilient, fragrant, and a welcoming host to beneficial native insects – render it a pest in unenlightened circles.
Five reasons to bring back the California tarweed!
1. Tarweed is the last guest standing at the party. Tarweeds' deep tap roots allow them to outlive other plants and remain blooming and strong in the hot, dry, California fall. Because they are some of the few plants to last into fall, they serve as a critical resource for wildlife like native bees and butterflies, predatory insects, and birds.
2. Tarweeds look gooooood. Tarweeds' beautiful yellow flowers – sometimes with red rings – open for sunrise and sunset, closing during the hot day to protect their sensitive components from the sun.
3. The tarweed feeds our birds. Tarweed heir seeds are highly nutritious and adored by birds.
4. The tarweeds protects our bees. The sticky secretions that give them the ‘tar’ part of their name are used by a variety of native bees; the bees use these glue-like compounds to fortify their nests, making them impenetrable to would-be predators and parasites. Plus, bees eat tarweeds' nectar and feed their babies tarweed's pollen. Especially in the barren fall, tarweeds are a bee safety net.
5. Tarweeds supports beneficial insects. The sticky secretions also catch small insects like flies which in turn feed a variety of predatory insects that provide the plants with protection from pests. Once in the neighborhood, these predators stick around and guard your other plants from bad bugs as well.