Rolling green hills with mown and unmown areas and tall green trees in the background.

Affiliate Spotlight: Pollinator habitat is par for the course at Mizzou

Author: Leanne Tippett Mosby, Sustainability Manager
Bee Campus Affiliate: University of Missouri
USDA Plant Zone: 6a
My favorite native pollinator plants: Many of the plants in University of Missouri pollinator patches pictured here are listed in the Missouri Prairie Foundation’s GrowNative! program’s “Top 10 Native Plants to Support Bees in Summer.” These plants are denoted by the 🐝 in the caption.

A group of daily-like yellow flowers with brown centers.
Black-eyed Susan 🐝 grows in the turf-turned-prairie project in the area of Animal Sciences on the MU campus in summer 2023. A species of coneflower (rudbeckia), its center is made up of hundreds of individual tiny flowers. Photo credit: Leanne Tippett Mosby

From the 1957 purchase and preservation of a 146-acre tract of virgin tallgrass prairie, to the ongoing efforts of campus faculty, staff and students to engage the broader public, University of Missouri (MU) has long been a leader promoting land stewardship in harmony with nature. The following are some highlights of efforts on campus and beyond aimed at pollinator conservation.

A group of tall cone-shaped purple flowers bloom with a fuzzy yellow bumble bee on one.
A bumble bee on purple prairie clover 🐝 in the newly established pollinator patch on MU campus outside Animal Sciences building in late spring 2023. According to the Missouri Prairie Foundation, the purple prairie clover is a nitrogen fixer and an important component of Midwestern prairies. Photo credit: Leanne Tippett Mosby
A close-up of two yellow flowers with tall brown centers with a fuzzy yellow bee on one.
A bumble bee on gray-headed coneflower 🐝 at MU’s A.L. Gustin Golf Course in summer 2023. This species has a long summer blooming period. Photo credit: Leanne Tippett Mosby.
Spikey white flowers bloom prolifically in tall greenery.
Rattlesnake master dominates the northeast corner of MU’s Tucker’s Prairie in summer 2023. The prairie is a 146-acre tract of remnant, unplowed prairie purchased and protected in 1957 with funds from MU, the Nature Conservancy, and the National Science Foundation. Rattlesnake master was a common plant in tallgrass prairie, a habitat that historically covered about half of Missouri. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation Field Guide, Native Americans used this plant for medicine and as a source of fiber for clothes, sandals, and bags; the name and its alternative name of button snakeroot, derives from its folk medicine use as an antidote for snake venom. Photo credit: Leanne Tippett Mosby

The campus itself is a recognized botanic garden, which serves as a public and student resource for the collection, display, interpretation, and conservation of plants suited to central Missouri. The Mizzou Botanic Garden board of directors recently completed a three-year strategic plan, which emphasizes increasing outreach to the public, students, parents, faculty, and visitors.

Bunches of light pink milkweeds flowers with a black and orange monarch butterfly on one.
A monarch butterfly shares a common milkweed plant with two red milkweed beetles in a pollinator patch at MU’s A.L. Gustin Golf Course. Red milkweed beetles are herbivores and are harmless to monarch larvae and eggs. Photo credit: Leanne Tippett Mosby

The garden also partners with important conservation organizations in Missouri. The garden is an institutional member of GrowNative! – a program of the nonprofit Missouri Prairie Foundation in partnership with the Missouri Conservation Department that aims to protect and restore biodiversity by promoting the use of native plants in urban, suburban, and rural developed landscapes. The garden is also a member of Missourians for Monarchs, a collaboration of nonprofits, government agencies, and private businesses with a goal of creating and maintaining 19,000 acres of pollinator habitat annually for the next 20 years.

Rolling green hills with mown and unmown areas and tall green trees in the background.
The pollinator patch at hole 10 of A.L. Gustin Golf Course is among the first pollinator patches established at the course and is visible from the parking lot. Spring and early summer 2023 saw an abundance of bee balm, giving way later in the summer to a predominance of gray-headed coneflower. In all cases, bumble bees are easy to find in the approximately 15 acres of pollinator patches on the course. Photo credit: Leanne Tippett Mosby

Moving out from the central campus and the garden you’ll find a haven for pollinators at MU’s A.L. Gustin Golf Course. Through the vision, innovation, and hard work of the recently retired director of golf operations Jim Knoesel and golf course superintendent Isaac Breuer, the 18-hole course has transformed into a sanctuary for bees, birds, and native plants over the last several decades. Recognized as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary since 1997, Knoesel and Breuer haven’t rested on their laurels. Just last year, they partnered with a local chapter of Quail Forever to install yet another pollinator plot, bringing the total area of pollinator habitat to approximately 15 acres. As has been their standard practice, they held an educational event in conjunction with the installation; this time bringing out about 25 kids and 20 adults with Kids In Nature Daily (KIND) to help with the planting.

A black and yellow bee nectars on a spikey light purple flower.
A bumble bee on wild bergamot 🐝 at MU A.L. Gustin Golf Course. In the mint family, its common named is derived from its scent, which is similar to the bergamot orange used in Earl Gray tea. Photo credit: Leanne Tippett Mosby.
Tall plants with scattered white, yellow and purple blooms.
Slender mountain mint 🐝 grows among goldenrod (not blooming) and gray headed coneflower at MU’s A.L. Gustin Golf Course. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, many insects are attracted to the flowers of this plant including bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, skippers, beetles, and bugs. Photo credit: Leanne Tippett Mosby
Two side-by-side photos of tall yellow flowers.
Compass plants 🐝 rise above the rest of the wildflowers in a pollinator patch at MU’s A.L. Gustin Golf Course. These stately natives can grow to 8 feet tall. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Field Guide, the name of the plant derives from the plant’s behavior in full sun – when the upright lower leaves turn their edges toward north and south, with the flat surfaces facing east and west. Photo credit: Leanne Tippett Mosby

This hard work serves not only pollinators but provides an oasis of natural landscapes and wildlife to the delight of the humans hitting the links. Golfers are treated to a range of beautiful native wildflowers that change with the seasons. Wild bergamot, foxglove beardtongue, common milkweed and butterfly weed, various coneflowers, compass plant, slender mountain mint, Culver’s root, black-eyed Susan, false sunflower, liatris, goldenrod, and various asters are just a few of the natives providing an ever-changing buffet for pollinators and an evolving feast for the eyes from early spring through late fall. It’s also easy to catch a glimpse of Missouri’s state bird, the stunning Eastern bluebird, as Knoesel and Breuer have installed 26 bluebird houses almost three decades ago and have counted roughly 3,500 fledglings in that time.

Two gray-ish birds perch on two sides of a large gray barked tree.
Two juvenile Eastern bluebirds – the Missouri State Bird – rest in the shade of an oak tree at MU’s A.L. Gustin Golf Course. Eastern bluebirds thrive at Gustin, no doubt helped by the wide variety of insects supported in the pollinator patches. Gustin’s Jim Knoesel and Isaac Bruer installed 26 bluebird houses in 1994 and have since documented over 3,500 fledglings. Photo credit: Leanne Tippett Mosby
Culver’s root 🐝 grows near rattlesnake master in a pollinator patch at A.L. Gustin Golf Course in summer 2023. Native Americans used Culver’s root as a medicinal; its name is thought to derive from a late 17th/early 18th century physician who used it as a laxative and emetic. Photo credit: Leanne Tippett Mosby

As a land grant institution, an important part of MU’s mission is to deliver practical benefits of education and research beyond its campus borders. In keeping with this mission, MU Extension offers several programs to promote learning among the public about ecology and the environment. Two of these programs particularly relevant to pollinators and natural landscapes include:

  • Master Naturalist program: In partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation, this program allows individuals to meaningfully contribute to conservation efforts and awareness in their local communities through training and volunteer opportunities. Almost 3,000 volunteers have been trained in this program since its inception in 2004. In 2022 alone, volunteers provided 57,070 hours of volunteer service – equivalent to 32 full-time equivalents (FTEs) of professional time. The cumulative economic impact of this volunteer service since inception of the program is over $23 million! (Source: 2022 Annual Report, Missouri Master Naturalist program).
  • Master Pollinator Steward program: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provided grant funds to develop the manual for this educational program. Extension partners with beekeeping and conservation groups to offer this program, which includes hands-on activities and classroom presentations on topics such as insect ecology and integrated pest management, the relationship between plant and pollinator, honey bees and native pollinators, threats to pollinators, and conservation measures.

Sustain Mizzou, the student-run environmental program provides opportunities for Tigers to engage in a wide variety of sustainability initiatives, including a community garden they maintain in partnership with the Child Development Lab and Mizzou Master Gardeners.

With the many staff, faculty, and students involved in advocating for measures to promote pollinator conservation, MU is well-positioned to play a key role in improving biodiversity and climate resiliency to the benefit of wildlife and humans alike.

A small brown-orange skipper butterfly perches on a purple coneflower with a bright brown center.
A sachem skipper butterfly lights on a purple coneflower in a pollinator patch at MU’s A.L. Gustin Golf Course. Photo credit: Leanne Tippett Mosby

Share this post


Help us empower communities to protect the life that sustains us! DONATE