Cheerios’ Free Wildflower Seeds Raise Questions

By: Stormtracker Meteorologist Tim Studebaker

Facebook & Twitter: @TStudebakerABC6


 KINGSTON, R.I. – It sounds like a great plan, right? We need bees and butterflies to pollinate our crops.  They need wildflowers to survive.  So, to try to fight a declining bee population, the Cheerios cereal brand sent out free packets of wildflower seeds to anyone who requested them.  But, it’s what’s inside those packets that may have you thinking twice about where you plant those seeds.

 The flowers are meant to provide food for insects that pollinate our crops.  Social media has been buzzing about the seeds, with some voicing concern about the plant varieties included in the packets, saying not all of those wildflowers belong in every part of the country.

 Dr. Brian Maynard, Professor of Plant Sciences & Entomology at University of Rhode Island says, “There are native plants in every state that are wildflowers that support native insect populations.  People would like to try to promote local insect ecology and health by planting local wildflowers.  But, the wildflowers that these groups send out – you don’t know where they’re from.”

 The seeds came from Canadian distributor Veseys.  They sent us a list of the seeds in the packets, and we asked Dr. Maynard whether they belong in our area.

 After hearing the list, he says, “A lot of these species aren’t native.”

 He tells us there are groups that provide seed mixes designed for specific areas, but it can be expensive.  Often distributors use a uniform mix for the whole country.  Cheerios isn’t the first to do it; it’s actually a fairly common practice.

 Dr. Maynard says, “Nobody should be planting these things in wild, public areas.”

 But that doesn’t mean you can’t use the seed packets at all.

 Dr. Maynard: “They should start in their garden.  If they like what they see, then they can pick the plants that do well in their yard, learn more about them, then go and plant more of them for the pollinators.”

 We did reach out to General Mills, the maker of Cheerios, and in a written statement they tell us that the mixture was selected to be attractive to bees and other pollinators, and that the plant variety in the mix is not considered to be invasive.

 ©WLNE-TV / ABC6 2017