Wild About Texas

Wildflowers

Wild Bergamot

Scientific Name: Monarda fistulosa

Common Names: Wild Bergamot

Description

Wild bergamot or Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa) is a wildflower in the mint family (Lamiaceae) widespread and abundant as a native plant in much of North America. This plant, with showy summer-blooming white flowers, is often used as a honey plant, medicinal plant, and garden ornamental. The species is quite variable, and several subspecies or varieties have been recognized within it.

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot) is an herbaceous perennial that grows from slender creeping rhizomes, thus commonly occurring in large clumps. The plants are typically up to 3 ft (0.9 m) tall, with a few erect branches. Its leaves are about 2-3 in (5-8 cm) long, lance-shaped, and toothed. Its compact flower clusters are solitary at the ends of branches. Each cluster is about 1.5 in (4 cm) long, containing about 20–50 flowers. Wild bergamot often grows in rich soils in dry fields, thickets, and clearings, usually on limy soil.

The nectar of the flowers attracts long-tongued bees, bee flies, butterflies, skippers, and hummingbird moths. Among the long-tongued bees, are such visitors as bumblebees, Miner bees, Epeoline Cuckoo bees, and large Leaf-Cutting bees. A small black bee (Doufouria monardae) specializes in the pollination of Monarda flowers. Sometimes Halictid bees collect pollen, while some wasps steal nectar by perforating the nectar tube. The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird also visits the flowers. The caterpillars of the moths Sphinx cremitus (Hermit Sphinx) and Agriopedes teratophora (Gray Marvel) feed on the foliage. A seed bug (Ortholomus scolopax) is sometimes found in the flowerheads. Mammalian herbivores usually avoid this plant as a food source, probably because of the oregano-mint flavor of the leaves and their capacity to cause indigestion; they may contain chemicals that disrupt populations of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.

Bloom Color(s): white, pink, violet

Bloom Height: 1.5 in

Plant Height: to 5 ft.

Bloom Period: May to September

Plant Family: Lamiaceae