After we bought our house, I was disappointed to realize that the large and elegant American holly next to the driveway was a male tree, leaving us with no holly berries for holiday decoration. As time passed, however, I came to appreciate the fact that our male is the likely pollen source for the rest of the neighborhood hollies, and the scent of the plant in bloom is one of the joys of spring (last year's fallen, spiky leaves and this year's flower litter and enormous yellow pollen, not so much). Today I learned something else about this common tree: it is a magnet for bees.
Our tree is tall, and because of its location, we keep it limbed up to facilitate driving under it. We enjoy the scent of its blossoms but don't spend much time looking at them. Late this afternoon, though, I heard buzzing from several yards away and had to check out the action. The tree was loaded with tiny blossoms and full of bees of various species, all busily checking out the blooms and ignoring the wonderstruck human below their all-you-can-eat restaurant. No other single plant in the yard has ever hosted such a collection of bees at a single time--but then, the holly is the largest flowering plant we have.
Lesson of the day: when hoping to help bring back our threatened pollinators, look beyond the obvious. I had never associated Christmas greenery with bees--and it turns out that holly honey is a specialty item, reputed to have a strong floral scent reminiscent of the blossoms.
We may have to set up a hive.