We’ve all heard that bigger is better. Well, sometimes it is. Bigger fruit, bigger nuts, better crops. When my wife and I bought our Georgia mountain property, one of the first things we found was that there were Persimmon trees everywhere. A few years later we found Hazelnut trees here and there. We didn’t have beehives on the property yet but once we did we noticed the persimmons and hazelnuts were bigger in size and much more numerous. Pollination magic!
There are plenty of plants that will produce without the heavy and thorough pollination efforts put forth by honey bees. But when honey bees are involved, things just get better. In fact, there are many crops; wild and cultivated that rely on pollinators for their services. Here is a really cool guide I found about the role of pollinators.
I’m not a plant biologist or even an entomologist (bug science person) but it makes sense to me that when an area has an abundance of pollinators, let’s use honey bees for our example, then the available forage plants simply get more one on one contact with these lovely ladies. And when that much pollen gets passed around then bigger, larger fruit has got to be the logical outcome.
Persimmon trees grow like weeds on my property. I have to selectively choose which ones remain and which ones must go. I’m seriously considering learning how to successfully transplant them. But the mature, fruit-bearing trees definitely stay. There are at least 15-20 large mature trees scattered over a couple of acres. And when they’re in full bloom, the trees buzz with the pleasant hum of honey bees all day for two to four weeks depending. The blossoms vary in size but are incredibly inconspicuous when you look up and try to spot them.
I often refer to my favorite book when it comes to honey plants and persimmons are no exception. Here’s what American Honey Plants by Frank C. Pellett says about this tree also known as: Possum-wood, “Where abundant, persimmon is a valuable source of nectar…J.C. Elliott of Columbus, Kansas writes (1933) :- ‘Persimmon is one of my main flows…Some colonies gathered as much as seventy-five pounds surplus. The bees worked from before sunrise in the morning until after sunset in the evening.'”
If you have never tasted persimmons or if you have and didn’t like them, then you must try them when they’re actually ripe. When they’re not ripe they can be quite astringent, drying up your mouth as soon as you pop one in. The seeds are large and easy to spit out. I think they are especially prolific on my place because the racoons and opossums eat them, digest them, and ‘scatter’ them all over the place. If you are not lucky enough to have any of these trees nearby and if they will grow in your hardiness zone, then I highly recommend ordering some trees from One Green World here. They carry several varieties. Mine are the smaller fruit compared to the others by the name of American Persimmons.
It was quite a surprise two years ago when I found Hazelnuts on my property. I had been bush whacking and trying to get my property a little more under control and a lot less covered with plants. I couldn’t walk anywhere but on the small paths that the animals had made. When I came to this tree, which is actually more like a shrub, I found a small green husk hanging on a branch by itself. I knew that I had seen something like this in one of my many plant books. Sure enough it was the American Hazelnut! I was so excited. At this point I didn’t have beehives on my property yet. I was able to harvest about eleven hazelnuts in groups of one or two. I thought this was good until the year I brought my bees.
What a difference a little pollination makes. My hazelnuts went from a mere one or two nuts growing together to four and even seven in one small group. Plus, they were larger nuts than they had been the previous year. If you would like to get some plants of your own then I recommend the same as earlier, One Green World.
As usual, let’s see what American Honey Plants has to say about the hazelnut tree, “It yields some pollen and is valuable where there is a scarcity of early pollen-bearing plants.” While persimmon offers mostly nectar, American Hazelnuts are great in the pollen department. They usually bloom even earlier than maple in my experience. And again, this would be an excellent plant to propagate for myself and for my bees. The idea behind this is right up Permaculture Alley because these plants offer pollen and nectar to my bees at different times of the year and they offer me and my family more and better fruit and nuts.
There are two more books that you will love if you’re even the slightest bit interested in foraging wild edibles. I alluded to one earlier when I mentioned hazelnuts. Both books are written by the same author, Samuel Thayer. His first book is called, The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants. His second book is titled, Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants. Both of these go into depth unlike any other book in my collection. The author has incredible experience and gives the how-tos and what-fors.
When it comes to honey plants, I would like to encourage you each to learn what is available in your area. Once you’re familiar with what’s there, figure out a way that you could help those plants to thrive. Maybe it’s as simple as casting seed or simply not mowing down that hillside. Maybe you could take it to the next level and learn how to propagate or garden plants for your own property. And who knows, if you have more than you could ever possibly use then maybe, just maybe you could sell or give a few plants to your neighbors. Before you know it, your bees will be making honey on something that wasn’t available in such quantities as previous years.
Whatever you choose to do, have fun with it and share what you’re doing in the comments below. I have already spoken to one guy who loves propagating sunchokes. He said he would love to get a wild strain into his domesticated mix from the ones that grow on my property. You never know. Thanks for joining me and until next time remember,
~Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee.~
Jonathan Hargus/Beekeeper Extraordinaire