Purple Bergamotor

Purple Bergamotor

Purple Bergamot

Monarda media (Purple Bergamot) is a clump-forming perennial boasting fragrant, reddish-purple, tubular flowers borne in ragged terminal heads, 2-3 in. across (5-7 cm). Blooming for weeks from mid to late summer, they rest upon a whorl of decorative purplish bracts. The colorful and nectar-rich blooms ensure that butterflies and hummingbirds are regular visitors to the garden. The silvery-green foliage of opposite, lance-shaped leaves, is covered with fine hair. Aromatic, leaves have a strong mint fragrance when crushed. Purple Bergamot is best suited to the rich, moist, acidic soil of naturalized areas and along bogs, streams or ponds. Names: The genus name, Monarda, is an honorary for Spanish botanist Nicholas Monardes (1493-1588) who published a book in several editions on medicinal plants of the new world. The species media, means 'intermediate' or 'middle', the use here being obscure. The author name for the plant classification - ‘Willd.’ is for Carl Ludwig Willdenow (1765-1812), German botanist, a founder of the study of the geographic distribution of plants. He was director and curator of the Botanic Garden of Berlin.


Comparison: There are not many plants of Purple Bergamot in the Upland Garden compared with the proliferation of Wild Bergamot, M. fistulosa, which differs from this plant by its lighter pink to lavender color. Purple Bergamot tends to bloom earlier than Wild Bergamot. The structure of the two plants is similar. There are ornamental cultivars available from the nursery trade which could ultimately escape to the wild. These usually resemble M. media and M. fistulosa except in flower color - the most common cultivar comes from Monarda didyma and is the deep red one called called 'Raspberry Wine'.

Eloise Butler wrote of our native Wild Bergamot and her comments aptly apply here also: "Mrs. Mable Osgood Wright, in her The Garden, You and I, describes a fascinating garden designed by an invalid lady, in which nothing was admitted but plants with fragrant flowers or leaves. In such a garden, the mints would abound, and among them would be Monarda fistulosa, the Wild Bergamot, that now enlivens the borders of woods and meadows with large clumps of bright lavender bloom. Abundant as it is, we are never ready to cry “Hold! Enough!” For, besides its delicate perfume, it delights the eye as well. This plant will at once remind one of the cultivated, red-flowered bee balm or Oswego tea (Monarda didyma). The mints may be recognized by their square stems, two-lipped flowers, and usually aromatic odor." Published July 23, 1911, Minneapolis Sunday Tribune (Source: www.friendsofeloisebutler.org)



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