|Monday Melange: Wild Bergamot|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Monday, 02 July 2012|
Like its domestic counterpart the red-flowered bee balm, wild bergamot, Monarda fistulosa, is a perennial herbaceous plant and member of the mint family, most of which can be distinguished by their square stems. Wild bergamot grows in every state except California and Florida, within USDA zones 3 to 9.
The aromatic 1/2 to 3/4 inch flowers range in color from light pink and lavender to darker shades, and bloom from June into August, attracting bees and butterflies. Wild bergamot grows to a height of 2 to 4 feet (about 1.5 m) in prairies, dry fields and meadows, open rocky woods, and thickets, preferring alkaline soils to acidic ones. Great for urban gardens!
Wild bergamot grows via creeping rhizomes, typically in large thickets and is shade intolerant making it a perfect plant for a sunny edge of a woodland garden or as a mass of color in an open field. Of course, it can also be used in the perennial border.
The wild bergamot plant yields essential oil of bergamot. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked as an accompaniment, and brewed to make an herbal tea. The showy flowers are also edible and are an attractive garnish.
Wild bergamot is listed as a state protected plant in Rhode Island, falling under the category of "Historical" and is considered invasive in Nebraska and the Great Plains.
Photo source: Missouri Botanical Garden, www.mobot.org