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Honey bee forage: curlycup gumweed

Curlycup gumweed is a plant native to North America that attracts a variety of wild pollinators as well as honey bees. The name “gumweed” refers to the sticky, resinous material that is secreted from the flowers before they open. Gumweed was well-known to native North American tribes and used for a number of medicinal purposes. Lewis and Clark noted the value of the plant during their explorations.

The plant is in the Asteraceae (sunflower) family. It may behave as an annual, biennial, or short-lived perennial plant. The entire plant grows to about one foot tall and has yellow flowers that open to about one inch in diameter. It is easily recognized by the recurving bracts (bending backwards) that surround the flower.

With the exception of the southeastern states, curlytop gumweed is found throughout most of the continental United States. It is also widespread in Canada. The flowers bloom from June through September along roadsides, dispersed in grasslands, and in waste areas. Because the plant can accumulate large amounts of selenium from the soil, it is unpalatable to cattle.

Curlytop gumweed is a good honey producer. Like many of the other plants in the Asteraceae family, the honey may granulate very quickly due to a high ratio of glucose to fructose in the nectar.

Rusty

Curlycup gumweed. Wikimedia photo by Cory Maylett.

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