The Power of Yellow: Four Yellow Flowered Plants Alluring to Hummingbirds

by DerdriuMarriner

Yellow is a color which hummingbirds consider in their search for nectar sources.

Although hummingbirds seem to favor plants with red flowers in their search for nectar, the high-energy hummers actually consider other colors, such as yellow.

Yellow-flowered shrubs esteemed by hummingbirds include three shrubs and a lily:

• Golden currant (Ribes aureum),

• Nevin's barberry (Mahonia nevinii),

• Yellow trumpetbush (Tecoma stans)

• Lemon lily (Lilium parryi).

golden closeup of golden currant's flowers and foliage

Moscow region, west central Russia
Moscow region, west central Russia

 

Ribes aureum has the common names of golden currant and golden flowering currant.

Golden currant is a New World flowering shrub which comprises the only genus, Ribes, in the gooseberry family, Grossulariaceae.

Ribes aureum enjoys a wide range in North America:

  • in Canada from the Pacific Ocean province of British Columbia eastward into Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec);
  • in the United States from the west coast eastward to the east coast; excluded from Ribes aureum's native distribution are Washington, D.C., and 16 states: three New England states (Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island), one Mid-Atlantic state (Delaware), ten southern states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia), and two Pacific states (Alaska, Hawaii);
  • in northern Mexico.

Golden currant welcomes full sun.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies the fully hardy shrub as hardy for Zone 2 (winter minimum temperature range: -50° to -40° Fahrenheit; -46° to -40° Celsius) to Zone 9 (20° to 30° F.; -7° to -1° C.).

Ribes aureum grows to a maximum height of 6 feet (1.8 meters) and spreads maximally to an equiproportionate width of 6 feet (1.8 meters).

 

Rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) number among hummers enchanted with golden currant's nectar.

male Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) hovering

Saltspring Island, Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, southwestern Canada
Saltspring Island, Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, southwestern Canada

 

New World native rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufous) breeds in northwestern North America:

  • in western Canada's smallest federal territory of the Yukon, Pacific Ocean province of British Columbia, and prairie province of Alberta;
  • in the United States from southeastern Alaska (southern Valdez-Cordova Census Area through Alaskan Panhandle) southward into northwestern continental states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming, with possible spillovers into thin slices of northernmost California and Nevada.

As snowbirds, rufous hummingbirds favor southwestern Mexico, from the state of Nayarit southward through Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan, México, Morelos, Guerrero, Puebla, and Oaxaca.

 

Distribution map of Rufous Hummingbird

Yellow = Breeding range; Blue = Wintering range
Selasphorus rufous map
Selasphorus rufous map

closeup of flowers and foliage of Nevin's barberry (Mahonia nevinii)

Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Berkeley, Alameda County, San Francisco Bay Area, northwestern California
Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Berkeley, Alameda County, San Francisco Bay Area, northwestern California

 

Mahonia nevinii is known by the common name of Nevin's barberry.

A flowering shrub in the barberry family, Berberidaceae, Nevin's barberry (Mahonia nevinii) is endemic to southern California.

Nevin's barberry enjoys full sun. The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies the frost-hardy shrub as hardy for Zone 8 (10° to 20° F.; -12° to -7° C.) to Zone 10 (30° to 40° F.; -1° to 4° C.).

Mahonia nevinii reaches a maximum height of 8 feet (2.4 meters) and spreads to a maximum of 6 feet (1.8 meters).

Sunnily light yellow flowers open in racemes (floral clusters on short stalks termed pedicels) as cup shapes. Blue-green leaves flare out as narrow, pointed leaflets, with each side spiked with six spine-tipped teeth. Leaflet undersides are whitened.

Listed as a federally and state endangered species, Nevin's barberry fortunately lends itself to easy cultivation in gardens and parks where its drought tolerance are prized. Also, the spine-tipped teeth spiking Mahonia nevinii's leaflets encourage the golden-flowered shrub's use as barrier hedges.

 

Hummers nectaring at Nevin's barberry include Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna).

 

male Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte Anna)

Palo Alto, Santa Clara County, San Francisco Bay Area, northwestern California
Palo Alto, Santa Clara County, San Francisco Bay Area, northwestern California

 

New World native Calypte Anna breeds in western North America:

  • in Canada's westernmost province of British Columbia;
  • in the United States in three Pacific States (California, Oregon, Washington) and two Mountain States (Arizona, New Mexico);
  • in Mexico's northwesternmost state of Baja California.

As snowbirds, Anna's hummingbirds winter in western North America:

  • in Canada's western province of British Columbia and in B.C.'s neighbor, the westernmost prairie province of Alberta;
  • in the United States in the Alaska Panhandle of southeastern Alaska; in three Pacific States of California, Oregon, and Washington; in three Mountain States of Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico;
  • in Mexico in northwestern states of Baja California, Chihuahua, and Sonora.

 

Distribution map of Anna's Hummingbird

Blue = Wintering range; Green = Breeding and wintering range
Calypte anna map
Calypte anna map

closeup of inflorescence of yellow trumpetbush (Tecoma stans)

Tecoma stans: Yellow bell (N̂g-cheng-hoe; 黃鐘花) in Taiwan
Tecoma stans: Yellow bell (N̂g-cheng-hoe; 黃鐘花) in Taiwan

 

Tecoma stans is known commonly as yellow trumpetbush. Other common names include:

  • ginger-thomas,
  • yellow bells, and
  • yellow elder.

The New World flowering shrub in the trumpet vine family, Bignoniaceae, has a large native distribution, ranging from Arizona and New Mexico in southwestern United States, Texas in south-central U.S., and Florida in southeastern U.S., southward across Mexico and six Central  American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama) and into South America (Bolivia, Colombia, all the way to northern Argentina. Yellow trumpetbush also claims nativity in the Bahamas and in the Caribbean.

Yellow trumpetbush thrives in full sun. The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies Tecoma stans as hardy for Zone 10 (minimum winter temperatures: 30° to 40° Fahrenheit; -1° to 4° Celsius) through Zone 12 (50° to 60° F.; 10° to 16° C.).

Long-blooming yellow trumpetbush attains a maximum height of 15 to 30 feet (4.5 - 9 meters) and a maximum spread of 10 feet (3 meters).

Green brightness of lance-shaped, toothed leaflets contrasts dramatically with yellow goldenness of funnel-shaped flowers blooming as racemes (floral clusters on short stalks termed pedicels) or as panicles, i.e., compound racemes.

 

Yellow trumpetbush produces nectar framed in glowing yellow flowers which is completely irresistible to nectar lovers, especially black-chinned hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri).  

 

male black-chinned hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri)

Madera Canyon, northwestern Santa Rita Mountains, southeastern Arizona
Madera Canyon, northwestern Santa Rita Mountains, southeastern Arizona

 

As New World natives, black-chinned hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri) flutter across western North America:

  • from southern British Columbia in Canada
  • southward through the eight Mountain States (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming), three of the Pacific States (California, Oregon, Washington), and one of the South-Central States (Texas) of the United States, then
  • further south into six northern Mexico's states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo León, Sonora, Tamaulipas).

As snowbirds, black-chins winter along Mexico's western coast, from southern Sonora southward through the states of Sinoloa, Durango, Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan, Guerrero, México, Morelos, Puebla, and Oaxaca.

 

Distribution map of Black-chinned Hummingbird

Blue = wintering range; Yellow = breeding range
Archilochus alexandri map
Archilochus alexandri map

lemon lily (Lilium parryi)

Willow Creek Trail, San Jacinto, Riverside County, southwestern California
Willow Creek Trail, San Jacinto, Riverside County, southwestern California

 

Now a rare species in the lily family, Liliaceae, lemon lily (Lilium parryi) is known also as Parry's lilly.

As a New World native, lemon lily has homelands two states in southwestern United States:

  • in southeastern Arizona's Huachuca, Chiricahua, and Santa Rita Mountains;
  • in southern California's San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains as well as, sparsely, in northern San Diego County's Palomar Mountain.

Rare sightings occur in mountainous areas of Mexico's northwestern state of Sonora.

Fragrant richly yellow flowers unfurl in showy trumpet shapes as a graceful raceme with leaves encircling the stem's base in whorls. A single plant may produce over 30 flowers. Red anthers dramatically tip six stamens.

 

male Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)

The colors of hummingbird. Species: Calypte anna.
The colors of hummingbird. Species: Calypte anna.

 

Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna), the most common hummingbird in southern California, number among hummingbirds drawn to lemon lily's nectar.

Anna's hummingbirds affirm their appreciation of the color yellow in southern California by also visiting Nevin's barberry (Mahonia nevinii), another floral native of the Golden State.

 

Golden currant: Gilding the landscape

Ribes aureum: in landscape and closeup of flowers and foliage (insert)
Ribes aureum: in landscape and closeup of flowers and foliage (insert)

Conclusion: Allure of golden flowers for hummingbirds

 

It is gratifying for gardeners to realize that attracting hummingbirds to back yard and container gardens does not demand a monochromatic color scheme of an over-abundance of red. Seeing red may be enjoyable, but variety in the floral palette creates a most interesting visual landscape.

Hummingbirds assess floral environments not only for significant coloration but also, more importantly, for meaningful shapes guaranteeing easy access to nectar via hummers' bills. With floral shape asserting paramountcy over coloration, hummingbirds necessarily include colors other than red in their search for nectar.

Four yellow-flowered plants serve as satisfying nectar sources for hummingbirds:

  • Golden currant (Ribes aureum),
  • Nevin's barberry (Mahonia nevinii),
  • Yellow trumpetbush (Tecoma stans), and
  • Lemon lily (Lilium parryi).

Three constitute shrubs while the fourth, Lilium parryi, is a lily. As they unite hummers with humans in garden landscapes, all contribute golden gloriousness to their environments.

 

profusion of golden yellow flowers: Tecoma stands against backdrop of Bay of Bengal

Tenneti Park, Visakhapatnam, state of Andhra Pradesh, coastal southeastern India
Tenneti Park, Visakhapatnam, state of Andhra Pradesh, coastal southeastern India

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

 

sunny impact of Nevin's barberry flowers in the landscape

Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Berkeley, Alameda County, San Francisco Bay Area, northwestern California
Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Berkeley, Alameda County, San Francisco Bay Area, northwestern California

Sources

 

Flora: A Gardener’s Encyclopedia. Volume I: A-K. Portland OR: Timber Press, 2003.

Flora: A Gardener’s Encyclopedia. Volume II: L-Z. Portland OR: Timber Press, 2004.

Kirkpatrick, J. "Regional Planting Guide to Attract Hummingbirds." Garden Artisans > Articles. GardenArtisans.com. Web. www.gardenartisans.us

  • Available at: http://www.gardenartisans.us/articles/Regional%20Plant%20Guide%20for%20Hummingbirds.html

McKinley, Michael. Ortho's All About Attracting Birds. Des Moines, IA: Meredith Books, 2001.

Newfield, Nancy L., and Barbara Nielsen. Hummingbird Gardens: Attracting Nature's Jewels to Your Backyard. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996.

Ortho's All About Attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies. Des Moines, IA: Meredith Books, 2001.

Roth, Sally. Attracting Butterflies & Hummingbirds to Your Backyard. Rodale Organic Gardening Book. Emmaus PA: Rodale, 2001. 

"Taxon: Lilium parryi S. Watson."  USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program > Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Web. www.ars-grin.gov

  • Available at: http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?429560 

"Taxon: Mahonia nevinii (A. Gray) Fedde." USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program > Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Web. www.ars-grin.gov

  • Available at: http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?400641 

"Taxon: Ribes aureum Pursh." USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program > Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Web. www.ars-grin.gov

  • Available at: http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?31779

"Taxon: Tecoma stans (L.) Juss. ex Kunth." USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program > Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Web. www.ars-grin.gov

  • Available at: http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?80111 

Wilson, Bert. "How to Create a Hummingbird Garden in California." Las Pilitas Nursery > Birds and the Bees. Last edited on October 11, 2013. Las Pilitas Nursery. Web. www.laspilitas.com

  • Available at: http://www.laspilitas.com/garden/hummingbird.html

 

lemon lily

San Gorgonio Wilderness, southwestern San Bernardino County, southeastern California
San Gorgonio Wilderness, southwestern San Bernardino County, southeastern California
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 06/13/2016, DerdriuMarriner
 
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DerdriuMarriner on 04/25/2015

MBC, It's always nice to meet another bird lover. Hummingbirds are always welcome in my yard.

MBC on 04/22/2015

Thanks for this great information Mira. I'm a bird lover too.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/14/2014

Mira, Thank you! Perhaps one day I'll share my own images, but for now I am happy to spotlight the generous talents of others.

Mira on 06/13/2014

Beautiful! I loved the info and the photos and you're right, it's a great thing to make such beautiful images available.

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