There is a large area of non-native Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ between our deck and our patio. They were there when we bought the house and they stay pretty well confined to this area, so I leave them. My husband thinks they’re pretty. I guess I do too, BUT — they do not seem to feed any insects.
In this short video you can see insects buzzing around the goldenrod (Solidago sp) and the Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), gathering nourishment, but no insects are visiting the Goldsturm. I will occasionally see an insect land on a Goldsturm blossom, but they only circle the brown center disk and then fly away to the nearby native species (which have invaded!). They don’t seem to gather any nectar or pollen from the Goldsturm.
Pros and Cons of Nativars or Cultivars
There are pros and cons to be cited about cultivars of native plants or nativars. Certainly in the case of the Goldsturm, they are very beautiful with their glossy bright yellow-gold petals and dark brown center disk. They bloom for a very long time. And because they are a cultivar of the Rudbeckia, they thrive without much TLC adapting to almost any soil and light conditions.
However, the cons are more serious for wildlife. I’m not a botanist so I don’t know why insects aren’t visiting this plant for nourishment. I do know, however, when horticulturalists tinker with native plants to develop a desired characteristic, the result can change pollen quality or quantity. It can also change the availability of the nectar. Sometimes it is absent; sometimes it just can’t be accessed by wildlife.
Last year was the first year I saw any birds visiting the Goldsturms. Two Goldfinches stopped to check out the seed, but didn’t stay long and I didn’t see them come back. I assume the seed was not to their liking. Here is another con — cultivars are often sterile which means they don’t produce seeds for wildlife to eat.
For more thoughts on this, you might like to read a nicely written article on this subject by Rhonda Fleming Hayes entitled Plants for the garden: native vs. native enough. Thank you Julia Lundmark Vanatta for bringing this article to my attention.