Monarda didyma

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Not to be confused with Bergamot orange (used in Earl Grey tea); or Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot).
Monarda didyma
RubyThroatedHummingbird(Crop).jpg
Flower being visited by a hummingbird
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Monarda
Species: M. didyma
Binomial name
Monarda didyma
L.
Monarda didyma in the USA.svg
U.S. distribution of Monarda didyma

Monarda didyma (crimson beebalm, scarlet beebalm, scarlet monarda, Oswego tea, or bergamot) is an aromatic herb in the family Lamiaceae, native to eastern North America from Maine west to Ontario and Minnesota, and south to northern Georgia.[1][2][3] Its odor is considered similar to that of the bergamot orange (the source of bergamot oil used to flavor Earl Grey tea). The scientific name comes from Nicolas Monardes, who described the first American flora in 1569.[4]

Description[edit]

This hardy perennial plant grows to 0.7-1.5 m in height, with the stems square in cross-section. The leaves are opposite on the square stems, 6–15 cm long and 3–8 cm broad, and dark green with reddish leaf veins and a coarsely-toothed margin; they are glabrous or sparsely pubescent above, with spreading hairs below. It has ragged, bright red tubular flowers 3–4 cm long, borne on showy heads of about 30 together, with reddish bracts. It grows in dense clusters along stream banks, thickets and ditches, flowering from mid- to late summer.[5]

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Crimson beebalm is extensively grown as an ornamental plant, both within and outside its native range; it is naturalized further west in the United States and also in parts of Europe and Asia. It grows best in full sun, but tolerates light shade and will thrive in any moist, but well-drained soil. Several cultivars have been selected for different flower color, ranging from white through pink to dark red and purple.[6]

Beebalm has a long history of use as a medicinal plant by many Native Americans, including the Blackfeet. The Blackfeet Indians recognized this plant's strong antiseptic action, and used poultices of the plant for skin infections and minor wounds.[citation needed] An herbal tea made from the plant was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental caries and gingivitis.[citation needed] Beebalm is the natural source of the antiseptic thymol, the primary active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas. The Winnebago used an herbal tea made from beebalm as a general stimulant.[citation needed] It was also used as a carminative herb by Native Americans to treat excessive flatulence.[7][8]

Monarda didyma

References[edit]