General: Mint Family (Lamiaceae). This aromatic herbaceous perennial is 5 to 12 dm. high and has branched, hairy stems and spreads by seeds and rhizomes. The opposite leaves are distinctly petioled and deltoid-lanceolate to lanceolate and slightly toothed. Wild bergamot has square stems with gray-green foliage. The flowers bloom from June to September. They are solitary and terminal on the flowering branches and the two stamens surpass the upper lip. The flowers are tubular, 13-15 nerved, with lobes much shorter than the tube. The corolla is lavender and strongly bilabiate. The upper lip is narrow, entire, and softly pubescent while the lower lip is broader.
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: Mostly in the Ouachita Mountains, in OK and AR (Smith 1988).
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
This plant is found in upland woods, thickets, and prairies from Quebec to Manitoba and British Columbia south to Georgia, Louisiana, and Arizona. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Comments: along roadsides and other open disturbed habitats, open ridg es, dry streambeds, and open woods
Habitat & Distribution
General: When the seeds are ripe, cut off the seed heads and spread them over a clean, dry surface indoors to air-dry for several days. Then place some of the seed heads in a paper bag and shake. Many of the seeds will fall into the bag. Repeat the process with the remaining heads. Next run the seeds and associated chaff through a sieve. Store the seeds in a dry sealed and labeled container or ziploc bag with wet sand or peat moss in the refrigerator that is kept under 40 degrees F for three months.
Propagation by seeds: Sow seeds in flats during January and stored in a greenhouse are expected to germinate in one to two weeks. The soil mix can be one-third sand and two-thirds commercial plug mix. Apply a starter fertilizer solution for the seedlings. Water flats when the soil surface is dry to the touch. Keep the seedlings in the flats for 6-7 weeks, and then transplant them to 3-inch pots. Continue to water seedlings when the surface is dry to the touch. Pinch off the tops of the plants several times during the growing season to encourage branching and bushier grow habit. Apply a weekly application of an all-purpose fertilizer for the transplants. When the roots fill the container (about 2 months) they are ready for outplanting in the garden.
Plant seedlings in a sunny, weed-free well-drained soil, one and one-half to two feet apart. Water, until rains come.
Seeds can also be broadcast on a weed-free surface from January to mid-May in sunny locations. Once the seeds germinate seedlings should be watered during extended dry period. During the first summer of full growth mow the area 3 to 5 times to keep the plants between 8 and 4 inches tall. Mowing also reduces weeds.
Propagation by cuttings: Take stem tip cuttings, 3-4 inches long, any time from May to August. Remove the lower leaves and all flower or seed heads and insert the stems into a sand and perlite-rooting medium. Bury each cutting up to the first node. Place the cuttings in an enclosed area and mist them several times a day. In 4 to 5 weeks the cuttings should be well rooted and can be transplanted to pots. Then outplant the plants in the garden in the early autumn.
Flower-Visiting Insects and Birds of Wild Bergamot in Illinois
(Long-tongued bees usually suck nectar, but sometimes collect pollen as indicated below; short-tongued bees steal nectar at perforations of flowers [sn@prf] by wasps or they collect pollen, and they are non-pollinating; bee flies usually suck nectar, while other flies feed on pollen, explore the flowers, and are non-pollinating; wasps perforate the flowers to steal nectar, while other wasps suck nectar from these perforations or explore the flowers without feeding; beetles feed on pollen or explore the flowers and are non-pollinating; other insects & hummingbirds suck nectar; observations are from Robertson, Reed, Graenicher, Evans, Petersen, Moure & Hurd, Mitchell, Hilty, Grundel & Pavlovic, Clinebell, Swengel & Swengel, Bertin, and Grundel et al. as indicated below)
Trochilidae: Archilochus colubris sn (Rb, H, Brt)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn@prf np (Rb, Ev, Re, Cl); Apidae (Bombini): Bombus affinis (Re), Bombus auricomus sn fq (Rb, Re), Bombus bimaculatus fq (Ev, Pt, Re, Cl, Gnd), Bombus borealis (Re), Bombus fervidus (Pt, Re), Bombus griseocollis sn fq (Rb, Re, Cl), Bombus impatiens (Ev, Re, Cl, Gnd), Bombus nevadensis fq (Cl), Bombus pensylvanicus sn fq (Rb, Pt, Re), Bombus perplexus (Re), Bombus vagans sn fq (Rb, Pt, Re); Anthophoridae (Anthophorini): Anthophora abrupta (Cl), Anthophora terminalis (Re); Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina sp. np (Re, Cl), Ceratina dupla dupla sn@prf cp np (Rb, Ev, Gnd), Ceratina strenua (Gnd); Anthophoridae (Epeolini): Triepeolus concavus sn (Rb), Triepeolus lunatus concolor sn (Rb), Triepeolus nevadensis sn (Rb), Triepeolus remigatus sn (Rb); Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Anthedonia compta sn fq (Rb), Melissodes sp. (Cl), Melissodes agilis sn (Rb), Melissodes bimaculata bimaculata sn cp fq (Rb, Re), Melissodes communis cp (Rb), Melissodes comptoides sn (Rb), Melissodes desponsa sn (Rb), Melissodes trinodis sn (Rb); Anthophoridae (Xylocopini): Xylocopa virginica fq (Cl); Megachilidae (Coelioxini): Coelioxys rufitarsis rufitarsis sn (Rb); Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile latimanus sn (Rb, Ev), Megachile mendica (Ev, Cl), Megachile montivaga sn (Rb); Megachilidae (Osmiini): Hoplitis pilosifrons (Ev), Hoplitis producta (Re); Megachilidae (Trypetini): Heriades carinatus (Ev, Re, Cl, Gnd)
Halictidae (Dufoureinae): Dufourea monardae cp olg (Ev, MH, Re); Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon sericea sn@prf np ( Rb, MH, Re), Agapostemon texanus texanus (Re), Agapostemon virescens (Re, Cl), Augochlora pura (Re), Augochlorella sp. (Cl), Augochlorella aurata (Gnd), Augochlorella striata sn@prf np (Rb, MH, Re, Cl), Augochloropsis sumptuosa (Gnd), Halictus confusus sn@prf np (Rb, Ev, Pt, MH, Re), Halictus ligatus sn@prf np (Rb, MH), Halictus rubicundus sn@prf np (Rb, Ev, MH, Re, Cl), Lasioglossum spp. (Re), Lasioglossum anomalum (Re, Gnd), Lasioglossum foveolatum (Gnd), Lasioglossum imitatus (Re, Cl), Lasioglossum obscurus (MH), Lasioglossum paraforbesii (Re), Lasioglossum pectoralis (Ev), Lasioglossum pictus (Re), Lasioglossum pilosum pilosum sn@ prf np cp (Rb, Ev, MH, Re, Gnd), Lasioglossum pruinosus (Re), Lasioglossum rohweri (Re), Lasioglossum subviridatum (Gnd), Lasioglossum supraclypeatus (Re), Lasioglossum versatus sn@prf cp np (Rb, MH), Lasioglossum vierecki (Gnd); Colletidae (Colletinae): Colletes nudus (Mch); Colletidae (Hylaeinae): Hylaeus mesillae (Re); Andrenidae (Andreninae): Andrena hirticincta (Re); Andrenidae (Panurginae): Protandrena bancrofti (Re)
Sphecidae (Crabroninae): Anacrabro ocellatus np (Re), Ectemnius ruficornis (Cl); Sphecidae (Philanthinae): Cerceris clypeata np (Re); Vespidae: Dolichovespula maculata np (Re), Polistes dorsalis prf sn@prf np; Vespidae (Eumeninae): Euodynerus foraminatus prf sn@prf np (Rb, Re); Braconidae: Cardiochiles sp. np (Re); Perilampidae: Perilampus hyalinus np (Re);
Syrphidae: Allograpta obliqua np (Re), Eristalis stipator np (Re), Eupeodes sp. np (Re), Platycheirus sp. np (Re), Sphaerophoria contiqua np (Re), Syritta pipiens np (Re), Syrphus sp. np (Re), Toxomerus geminatus np (Re), Toxomerus marginatus np (Re); Bombyliidae: Anthrax albofasciatus fp np (Rb, Gr), Exoprosopa sp. (Cl), Exoprosopa decora sn (Rb), Exoprosopa fasciata sn (Rb), Hemipenthes sinuosa (Gr, Re), Systoechus vulgaris sn (Rb, Gr) fq; Conopidae: Physocephala tibialis sn (Rb, Re), Stylogaster biannulata sn np (Rb); Anthomyiidae: Hylemya sp. np (Re)
Nymphalidae: Asterocampa celtis (Re), Cercyonis pegala (Cl), Danaus plexippus (Rb, Cl), Limenitis archippus (Rb), Phyciodes tharos (Cl), Speyeria aphrodite aphrodite (Re), Speyeria cybele fq (Rb, Re, Cl), Speyeria idalia (Rb), Vanessa atalanta (Rb, Cl), Vanessa cardui (Rb), Vanessa virginiensis (Rb); Lycaenidae: Lycaeides melissa samuelis fq (GP, Sw); Pieridae: Colias philodice (Rb), Colias eurytheme (Cl), Pontia protodice (Rb); Papilionidae: Battus philenor fq (Rb), Papilio cresphontes (Rb), Papilio glaucus (Cl), Papilio polyxenes asterias fq (Rb), Papilio troilus (Rb, H, Cl)
Hesperiidae: Achalarus lyciades (Rb, Cl), Anatrytone logan (Rb, Re), Atalopedes campestris (Cl), Epargyreus clarus (Rb, Re, Cl), Euphyes vestris (Rb, Re), Pholisora catullus (Rb), Poanes zabulon (Rb), Polites origanes (Re), Polites peckius (Cl), Staphylus hayhurstii (Rb), Thorybes bathyllus (Rb), Thorybes pylades (Cl), Wallengrenia egerement (Re)
Sphingidae: Hemaris diffinis (Rb, Re, Cl), Hemaris thysbe (Rb, H, Re, Cl)
Cantharidae: Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus np (Re)
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 21 - 80
Comments: 8 EOs in OK, 34 in AR.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Monarda fistulosa
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Monarda fistulosa
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: T4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: About 42 known EOs; locally abundant, occurring in disturbed habitats.
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values.
Comments: Occurs in disturbed areas.
Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)
Seeds and plants of selected wild bergamot are available from many nurseries. It is best to plant species from your local area, adapted to the specific site conditions where the plants are to be grown. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”
Once established, wild bergamot still benefits from extra watering during dry summers. Continue mowing the area, once a year, after the hardest killing frosts or the following spring. This keeps woody plants from encroaching and removes plants that have died back. Since the plant spreads by rhizomes, it can get aggressive. The plant can be kept from spreading by divisions. Division of large plants every 2 to 3 years also keeps them healthy. Mature clumps can be divided in March before they send up stems. Dig up a portion of the clump and divide it into sections. Replant and water the divisions promptly. Continue to add leaf mold and compost to your soil, as the plant's shallow root systems spread easily through light soil.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Ethnobotanic: The Tewa Indians because of the flavor it imparted cooked Wild bergamot with meat. The Iroquois used the plant in the making of a beverage. The plant has a wide variety of medicinal uses. The Ojibwe put a wad of chewed leaves of this plant into their nostrils to relieve headache. The tops of the plant were dried and used as a sternutatory for the relief of colds. The leaves were placed in warm water baths for babies. The Flambeau Ojibwe gathered and dried the whole plant, boiling it in a vessel to obtain the volatile oil to inhale to cure catarrh and bronchial affections. The Menomini also used this plant as a remedy for catarrh, steeping the leaves and inflorescences in a tea. The Meskwaki used this plant in combination with other plants to relieve colds. The Hocak (Winnebago) used wild bergamot in their sweat bath and inhaled the fumes to cure colds. A decoction of boiled leaves was used as a cure for eruptions on the face. The Cherokee made a warm poultice of the plant to relieve a headache. The Teton Dakota boiled together the leaves and flowers as a cure for abdominal pains. The Blackfoot made a tea from the blossoms and leaves to cure stomach pains. They also applied boiled leaves to the pustules of acne. The Tewa dried the plant and ground it into a powder that was rubbed over the head to cure headaches, over the body to cure fever, and as a remedy for sore eyes and colds. Early white settlers used it as a diaphoretic and carminative, and occasionally employed it for the relief of flatulent colic, nausea and vomiting.
Economic: Wild bergamot is used in flower arrangements. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds use the plant for nectar.
Wild bergamot or bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) is a wildflower in the mint family (Lamiaceae) widespread and abundant as a native plant in much of North America. This plant, with showy summer-blooming white flowers, is often used as a honey plant, medicinal plant, and garden ornamental. The species is quite variable, and several subspecies or varieties have been recognized within it.
Description and distribution
Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot) is an herbaceous perennial that grows from slender creeping rhizomes, thus commonly occurring in large clumps. The plants are typically up to 3 ft (0.9 m) tall, with a few erect branches. Its leaves are about 2-3 in (5–8 cm) long, lance-shaped, and toothed. Its compact flower clusters are solitary at the ends of branches. Each cluster is about 1.5 in (4 cm) long, containing about 20–50 flowers. Wild bergamot often grows in rich soils in dry fields, thickets, and clearings, usually on limy soil. The plants generally flower from June to September.
Several varieties have been variously recognized within Monarda fistulosa, of which some have also been treated as subspecies or as distinct species. Some of the varieties are geographically widespread, and others are quite restricted in their ranges. Varieties include:
- Monarda fistulosa var. brevis – Smoke Hole bergamot (Virginia and West Virginia)
- Monarda fistulosa var. fistulosa – Wild bergamot (Widespread, primarily eastern and central North America)
- Monarda fistulosa var. longipetiolata – (Ontario and Quebec)
- Monarda fistulosa var. maheuxii – (Ontario)
- Monarda fistulosa var. menthifolia – (Widespread, western North America)
- Monarda fistulosa var. mollis – (Widespread, primarily eastern and central North America)
- Monarda fistulosa var. rubra – (Eastern North America, uncommon)
- Monarda fistulosa, unnamed variety – (Arkansas and Oklahoma)
One authority states that Native Americans recognized four kinds of wild bergamot that had different odors.(Wood,1997)
Wild bergamot was considered a medicinal plant by many Native Americans including the Menominee, the Ojibwe, and the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk). It was used most commonly to treat colds, and was frequently made into a tea. Today, many families still use wild bergamot during the cold and flu season. The tea may be sweetened with honey, as it tends to be quite strong.
The species of Monarda that may go under the common name "bee balm," including M. fistulosa, have a long history of use as a medicinal plant by Native Americans, including the Blackfoot. The Blackfoot recognized the plant's strong antiseptic action, and used poultices of the plant for skin infections and minor wounds. A tea made from the plant was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental caries and gingivitis. Bee balm is the natural source of the antiseptic thymol, the primary active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas. The Winnebago used a tea made from bee balm as a general stimulant. Bee balm was also used as a carminative herb by Native Americans to treat excessive flatulence. Leaves were eaten boiled with meat and a concoction of the plant was made into hair pomade. The herb is considered an active diaphoretic (sweat inducer).
The essential oil of Monarda fistulosa was analyzed using mass spectrometry and arithmetical retention indices, and was found to contain p-cymene (32.5%), carvacrol (24.0%), thymol (12.6%), an aliphatic aldehyde (6.3%), the methyl ether of carvacrol (5.5%), α-pinene (3.5%), β-pinene (2.9%), sabinene hydrate (1.9%), α-terpinene (1.7%), citronellyl acetate (1.6%), and β-caryophyllene (1.1%).
- Wild Bergamot, Edmonton Naturalization Group
- Monarda fistulosa at USDA PLANTS Database
- Plant Guide: Monarda fistulosa at USDA NRCS Plant Materials
- Dickinson T, Metsger D, Bull J, Dickinson R. (2004) The ROM Field Guide to Wildflowers of Ontario, Toronto:ROM Museum, p. 293.
- This taxon is sometimes referred to as Monarda fistulosa subsp. brevis; however, as of September 2011, that nomenclatural combination has not yet been validly published.
- "Monarda fistulosa ssp. 1". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
- Kimball, R.T., D.J. Crawford, J.R. Page, and P.J. Harmon (2001). "Inter-simple sequence repeat (ISSR) diversity within Monarda fistulosa var. brevis (Lamiaceae) and divergence between var. brevis and var. fistulosa in West Virginia". Brittonia 53 (4): 511–518. doi:10.1007/bf02809651.
- "Monarda fistulosa var. fistulosa". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
- "Monarda fistulosa var. longipetiolata". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
- "Monarda fistulosa var. maheuxii". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
- "Monarda fistulosa var. menthifolia". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
- "Monarda fistulosa var. mollis". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
- "Monarda fistulosa var. rubra". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
- This taxon is sometimes referred to as Monarda fistulosa var. stipitatoglandulosa; however, as of September 2011, that nomenclatural combination has not yet been validly published. The synonymous name Monarda stipitatoglandulosa is validly published.
- "Monarda fistulosa var. 1". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
- Wild Bergamot, USDA
- Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West, Gregory L. Tilford, ISBN 0-87842-359-1
- V. A. Zamureenko, N. A. Klyuev, B. V. Bocharov, V. S. Kabanov and A. M. Zakharov, "An investigation of the component composition of the essential oil of Monarda fistulosa", Chemistry of Natural Compounds, Vol. 25, No. 5, Sep. 1989.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Place holder for an unpublished combination; included in Kartesz (1994, checklist; 1999, Synthesis) under "Monarda fistulosa ssp. fistulosa var. stipitatoglandulosa, comb. nov. ined." This combination has no entry in the International Plant Name Index as of October 2010, suggesting that it has not yet been published.
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