Wild Bergamot

Media
Photo of wild bergamot or horsemint plant with lavender flowers
Safety Concerns
Name
Edible
Scientific Name
Monarda fistulosa
Family
Lamiaceae (mints)
Description

A much-branched, clump-forming perennial, pleasantly scented, with square stems. Flowers normally in 1 terminal cluster, subtended by many small leaves, which frequently are rose-purple. Floral tubes to 1½ inches long, ending in 2 lips, the lower broad and recurving, the upper arching upward with stamens protruding, lavender, lilac, or rose. The subtending bracts are pale green or lilac-tinged. Blooms May–August. Leaves opposite, on definitive stalks, gray-green, with fine hairs, ovate-lanceolate, with small teeth.

Similar species: Beebalm (M. bradburiana) is quite similar, but its leaves are stemless.

Common Name Synonyms
Horsemint
Size
Height: to about 3 feet.
Where To Find
image of Wild Bergamot (Horsemint) distribution map
Statewide.
Occurs in fields, prairies, borders of woods and glades, and roadsides. It is also sometimes cultivated in native plant gardens, where it appreciates good air circulation and rather dry or well-drained conditions, which help prevent powdery mildew.
The name wild bergamot refers to the scent of the plant and its use as a culinary and medicinal herb. The fragrance of wild bergamot and its relatives in the genus Monarda is similar to the scent of the bergamot orange, which is grown mostly in Italy and harvested only for its oil. That citrus fruit is most familiar to us as the distinctive flavor of Earl Grey tea and as an ingredient in fine perfumes. Many people think that our wild bergamot (in the mint family) smells more like oregano.
As with the other mints in this genus, this plant is cultivated to use as herbal tea, which has been valued for its medicinal qualities. It is also cultivated as a showy native plant that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. It and other horsemints make nice dried flowers.
Many types of insects, including bees, wasps, moths, and butterflies, visit the flowers to drink nectar. Some caterpillars eat the foliage. Herbivorous mammals tend to avoid it, however, as the chemicals in the leaves seem to cause indigestion.
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About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!