Is Hawkweed a native plant? Is it beneficial to pollinators?
We are working to transform our yard to a native plant meadow. Several large patches of hawkweed are growing well. My reading says these are not native and invasive. Are they beneficial to pollinators? Do the benefits outweigh any harm?
Rebecca Long, Sustainable Agriculture and Horticulture Professional
Sounds like a wonderful project! There are actually many species of hawkweed in New England, some of which are native. There is also a chance it’s one of the non-native species which tend to spread quite aggressively in lawns, especially sandy or nutrient poor spots where grass has trouble competing.
It’s an interesting philosophical question! Any flowering plant, non-native hawkweed included, will provide more benefits to pollinators than just lawn. However, insects have evolved to not only get food from but also reproduce on our native plants and many species are specialists, meaning they require specific native plants to complete their life cycle (like monarchs and milkweed). So for those species, an aggressive non-native plant is taking up habitat that could be populated by a native plant that not only provides food but also supports the full lifecycle of our native insects.