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Monarda is a genus in the mint family (Lamiaceae).  It contains 16 species, all endemic to eastern North America, and closely related to the pagoda plants (genus Blephilia) and the mountain mints (genus Pycnanthemum). Commonly known as the bee balms, Oswego Tea, Monarda, Bergamot, and Horsemint, the genus is named for 16th century Spanish horticulturalist Nicolas Monardes.  The red, pink, purple tubular flowers attract bee, butterfly and hummingbird pollinators, and the genus is commonly cultivated for gardens and landscapes; most cultivars are crosses between M. didyma and M. fistulosa.  Native American tribes used Monarda species (especially didyma and fistulosa) for a variety of medicinal properties, notably as antiseptics, and for seasoning food. 

Monarda species are fast growers, typically reaching up to 2.5-3 feet (75-90 cm) tall.  Some species are perennial, some annual.  Like most mints, Monarda species have four-sided stems with sides separated by discrete angles.  Though popular garden plants, Monarda species can be invasive and most are highly susceptible to powdery mildew, although some varieties have been bred for resistance to this pest.  

(Hawk 1998; Perry, date unknown; Prather et al. 2002; Wikipedia 2014)


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