Gardening with Native Plants

Locate your Conservation District

Laramie, WY


Pollinators are critical to our ecosystems and our food supply. Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about one-third of all the food we eat depend on insect pollination. Pollinators–bees, butterflies, birds, bats, moths, and beetles– visit flowers in search of protein-rich pollen to feed their young brood and sugar-rich nectar to fuel their flight. During this foraging, the pollinator brushes up against the flower’s reproductive parts, unknowingly depositing pollen and thus, enabling the plant to produce fruit and seeds. Many plants cannot reproduce without pollen brought to them by pollinators. 

Native wild bees—not the honeybees that were imported from Europe–don’t get much as much attention as they deserve, but they are important pollinators for valuable food crops, including apples, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, watermelons, eggplants, tomatoes, squash and pumpkins. Native wild bees are primarily solitary bees whose species number about 4,000 in North America. Some bees are generalists, while some are specialists that visit only a single plant family or genus. For example, the alfalfa leaf-cutter bee (Megachile rotundata) is a very effective pollinator for alfalfa, a valuable field crop in Wyoming. Another well-known example of a specialist pollinator is the Monarch butterfly whose larvae feed only on milkweed. Without milkweed, the larvae would perish.

Not only are pollinators vital to agriculture, they are important to maintaining the biodiversity of our ecosystems. When a bumble bee feeds on the nectar and pollen of huckleberry flowers, it pollinates the flowers which will produce fruit eaten by songbirds, grizzly bears, and dozens of other animals, including humans. According to the Xerces Society, 25% of all birds and mammals rely on fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination for a significant portion of their diet. 

Increasing pollinator habitat is something we can all do by planting pollinator-friendly gardens.  Planting native plants that have co-evolved with pollinators over thousands of years provides pollen, nectar, and floral oils, necessary for pollinators to thrive and reproduce. Ensure your garden includes a diversity of native species that will provide a succession of blooms to attract a greater variety of pollinators and wildlife and offer needed resources over a long blooming period.

Pollinator Resources:

Promoting Pollinators on Your Place, A Wyoming Guide,

Tiny Bird, Big Appetite, Jacelyn Downey

Ten Steps to a Pollinator Garden, Amy Yarger, Horticultural Director of the Butterfly Pavilion in Denver.

Native Bees of Wyoming Field Guide, Lusha Tronstad and Michael Dillon

Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden Using Native Plants, Susan Reel

The Xerces Society.

Additional Resources for Gardening with Native Plants

University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute offers advice and information about gardening with natives.

University of Wyoming, Barnyards & Backyards provides resources on native plants 

and offers programs and recorded videos on native plants and pollinators of Wyoming: 

Wildflowers of Wyoming

Guest Dorothy Tuthill, Associate Director of the UW Biodiversity Institute leads a tour of fabulous wildflowers with a focus on the Laramie area. 

Native Plants for Gardens  

Guest Jenny Thompson, the Small Acreage Outreach Coordinator, University of Wyoming Extension discusses native plants for gardens (with a focus on the Laramie area). 

Wyoming Pollinators

Scott Schell, University of Wyoming Extension Entomologist Specialist discusses some of the many pollinators that call Wyoming home. 

The Audubon Society offers a plethora of information and advice on attracting birds to your garden. This article explains why native plants are preferable to exotic plants.


Plants with Altitude: Regionally Native Plants for Wyoming Gardens, Amy A. Fluet, Jennifer S. Thompson, Dorothy E. Tuthill, Brenna R. Marsicek. or purchase a hard copy through:

A Pocket Guide to the Native Plants of Teton County, WY, Teton Conservation District, 2022

Native Plant Resource Guide, The Nature Conservancy and Teton Conservation District (focused on Teton County and the Greater Yellowstone areas), 2022 (Download from the link)

Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, Douglas Tallamy, 2020