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A favorite native wildflower of mine is in bloom all over the Center! Pretty much any trail you follow at Schlitz Audubon, you will come across a patch of this beautiful plant. It’s known by many names–Wild Bergamot, Bee Balm, or Monarda fistulosa. Bee Balm, as one of its common name implies, attracts native bees. While on my walk in the woods, I stood by two different patches of Bee Balm for maybe 10-20 minutes each, and observed SO MANY different species either landing on or collecting nectar from the eccentric flower head. Tiny bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, and even a Ruby-throated Hummingbird were spotted.
We love Wild Bergamot because it can be planted in spring, on bare soil, and will germinate without overwintering; it does not need stratification. Monarda fistulosa, also commonly called Bee Balm or Horse-Mint, has a lovely lavender blossom and distinctively aromatic foliage. It is a familiar component of prairie and savanna communities on all but the wettest of soils. Native to most of North America, it often is cited for its historical medicinal applications among indigenous peoples. These include poultices for boils and lacerations, as well as tea infusions for headaches, indigestion and colds and flu. Wild Bergamot is a favorite of butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Wild bergamot is also one of the host plants of the Raspberry pyrausta butterfly. Its species name, fistulosa, refers to the tube-like structure of its blossoms, which appear from July through September, nicely complementing nearby yellow composite flowers, like Rudbeckia, Silphium, and Helianthus. Check out our short video about Wild Bergamot.Meet genus Monarda, aka bee balm, a member of the mint (Laminaceae) family, named in honor of the 16th century Spanish physician and botanist Nicolas Bautista Monardes. Monardes wrote some of the earliest books about the medicinal uses of America's native plants from intel gathered by early explorers who "discovered" Monarda and some of its many uses from the indigenous people who inhabited the New World.
Also known as wild bergamot (for its citrusy aroma and flavor similar to Earl Grey tea) and horsemint, by the early 18th century the vigorous North American Monarda was regarded as a desirable kitchen and ornamental plant. In 1744, the American botanist John Bartram sent Monarda didyma seeds he'd collected from the gardens of settlers near Oswego, New York to England. By 1760, there was an abundance of Oswego tea (another common name for bee balm) to be found in the markets of Covent Garden.Bee Balm (Monarda) is an old-fashioned favorite perennial. Bee Balm is deer resistant, easy to grow and will attract pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. Monarda (Bee Balm) are a showy group of native and hybridized wildflowers. The Monarda (Bee Balm) varieties we carry have excellent mildew resistance. Monarda enjoys fertile garden soils; mulch well and water regularly to keep them happy. (Source: www.highcountrygardens.com)