Friday, February 01, 2008

Bee Balm

Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa)

Under a January sky.

There's little left of what once was.
Just a cluster of empty vessels falling into disarray.

How different it was in mid-June.

Other common names: Oswego-tea or wild bergamot

A member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). The leaves are used in herbal teas and the flowers are edible. Some say the leaves have an oregano scent. Historically, oil from the leaves was used to treat respiratory ailments.

Grows in almost every state and province in the U. S. and Canada and isn't picky about location. Habitat - Prairies, fields, open rocky woods, glade margins, thickets, roadsides, railroads. Preference is full or partial sun, and moist to slightly dry conditions.

The root system consists of deep, strongly branched roots, and shallow rhizomes that are responsible for the vegetative spread of the plant. These rhizomes typically send up multiple leafy stems in a tight cluster, giving Bee Balm a bushy appearance. The rhizomes can survive earth-moving and bulldozing operations, and send up plants in unexpected places. Can also be grown from seed. This plant often spreads aggressively. (Of course, it does. It's a mint.)

The nectar of the flowers attracts long-tongued bees, bee flies, butterflies, skippers, and hummingbird moths. Hummingbirds also visits the flowers. Mammalian herbivores usually avoid bee balm.



Nessa said...

I like the POV of the first photo.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of getting some seed and then read your "plant often spreads aggressively" part and think I don't need that at this time in my life. I will have to stick to something less aggressive.

Nice photos.

Tom said...

Great post and very informative... I'm wondering if we have anything similar over here... I would like to attact more insects to the field at the back of the house.

Willard said...

Excellent post and photographs. That is one of my favorite wildflowers

lisa said...

Great post! I really enjoy all plants in the mint family, and they aren't very aggressive for me in the frozen north. That seedhead is really cool.

Q said...

Hi Marvin,
Bee Balm is one of my all time favorite herbs. All the different Swallowtail butterflies in my area love it as do the hummingbirds. I also enjoy deting the leaves and having tea in the winter. Hummm that sounds good. Think I'll fix a cup of tea!

imac said...

Great photos and info make a brill post.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Yep,one of my favs too Marvin. Great photos. Such lovely clear skies. It is still cloudy and gloomy here. At least the snow flurries stopped.

Unknown said...

These are some of the best close-ups I've ever seen! You can see each individual "empty vessel", and the depth-of-field in that mid-June one is marvelous. Great work!


David Webb: Nature Photographer

Tom Arbour said...


Anyone who can identify herbaceous plants to species during winter is a keen observer of natural history. And I also agree with David, great shots.


Andree said...

OK I know I have wild bergamot in my fields here. But I never knew it was bee balm, which I always thought of as a nursery plant that I had to buy to get more hummers. Fascinating.

Marvin said...

The ID was easy because I cheat. Identify the plant in summer and keep your eye on it until winter. Without neighbors to complain about my landscaping practices, I mow around many "weeds" because I want to enjoy their blooms and because they attract insects for me to photograph.

Kerri Farley said...

An interesting plant....I don't know that I've seen it around here...but I'm going to start looking for it! I think I want to cultivate a WEED/WILDFLOWER GARDEN this year.....they really bring the bees and birds :)