21 March 2013


One of our most visible plants at St. Anne's is our lovely ceanothus. In late winter/early spring our ceanothus blooms, summoning dozens of bumble and honey bees to its flowers with their unusual smell. Wikipedia describes the smells of some varieties as "intensely fragrant almost to the point of being nauseasting, and are said to resemble the odor of 'boiling honey in an enclosed area'".

I think some students might agree that our ceanothus smell resembles this description. One student called the smell "soap", another "old socks", and I myself find it a bit like "stinky locker room". However, it seems to be intoxicating for the bees in the best way, as the noise of their humming is startling, and we can stand and count up to 15 bees at any given time in the height of its bloom.

Ceanothus is a California native, and interestingly, one of the few plants whose seeds can lie dormant for 100's of years. In the wild, forest fires are required to germinate the seeds, but in captivity, seeds can be forced to germinate through long periods of wet and cold.  A easier propogation method is to cut and root the plant stems.

See the two bees in this photo?