Common Name: Bee Balm or Wild Bergamot
Scientific Name: Monarda fistulosa
Habitat & Range: dry, sunny fields and roadsides
Bloom Time: summer
About: Do you like Earl Grey tea? The distinctive taste comes from Oil of Bergamot, derived from this native wildflower. If you like growing native plants for tea, this is a must-have. A part of the mint family, tea made from the leaves of Wild Bergamot is supposed to aid in digestion and treat respiratory problems (just like mint tea). Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love these flowers, but beware that it is a fairly aggressive spreader–great if you’ve got a large butterfly garden, but it may take over less pushy plants in a cottage garden. I have both the wild version and a showier cultivar (below) with bigger leaves and big, fuchsia flowers, but less of that essential oil you want for your tea. It is definitely taking over its spot in the garden. In fact, the species and the cultivar apparently cross-pollinated last year and this year I had a deeper purple plant as well. I’ll have move my poor crowded coneflowers elsewhere as I love these flowers that bloom when a lot of other stuff in the garden is looking kind of ragged from the summer heat. They are completely carefree practically the moment you put them in the ground.
Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000