Monarda fistulosa

Bee balm or wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is a common native herbaceous perennial in the Lamiaceae but is difficult to separate from bradburiana, lindheimeri, and russeliana. There are also two species citriodora and clinopoides that seem to be planted in the state; I have only seen them in roadsides and plantings and never in the wild.  And, the most common and widespread Monarda is punctata that will be covered later when it flowers.  The stems of Monarda fistulosa like all mints are square, and the leaves are opposite, simple, and have pinnate major veins.  The crushed leaves and stem have a strong mint odor.  The inflorescences in this species are terminal head-like cymes.  The flowers are perfect and irregular, with five sepals, five petals, and two stamens.  The petals are two-lipped, with two petals in the upper lip and three in the lower lip. The petals are mostly lavender but can vary to white or darker toward purple.  The ovary is superior, and the style arises between the lobes.  The fruit is a schizocarp of four mericarps. It can be used for a spice or tea and have had young people call it “pizza plant” as it does smell a bit like oregano. There was a population or two of regular Monarda fistulosa in the forest at Allen Acres but I have also brought in additional ones and now have many populations scattered across Allen Acres. It seems every year I find a new population in an area where it was not last year. I am not complaining but am beginning to think it may be that word that we can’t use for a native, invasive.  I see lots of bees on the flowers and the caterpillars of the Raspberry Pyrausta Moth are reported to use this species.

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