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Monarda fistulosa

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Monarda fistulosa, the wild bergamot or bee balm,<ref name=ed>Wild Bergamot Template:Webarchive, Edmonton Naturalization Group</ref> is a wildflower in the mint family (Lamiaceae) widespread and abundant as a native plant in much of North America.<ref>Template:PLANTS</ref> This plant, with showy summer-blooming pink to lavender flowers, is often used as a honey plant, medicinal plant, and garden ornamental.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The species is quite variable, and several subspecies or varieties have been recognized within it.

Description and distribution

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot) plants, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Monarda fistulosa 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.<ref>Dickinson T, Metsger D, Bull J, Dickinson R. (2004) The ROM Field Guide to Wildflowers of Ontario, Toronto:ROM Museum, p. 293.</ref>

Monarda fistulosa ranges from Quebec to the Northwest Territories and British Columbia, south to Georgia, Texas, Arizona, Idaho, and northeastern Washington.

The plant is noted for its fragrance, and is a source of oil of thyme. Template:Citation needed Template:Clear


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<ref>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.</ref> – Smoke Hole bergamot (Virginia and West Virginia)<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>
  • Monarda fistulosa var. fistulosa – wild bergamot (widespread, primarily eastern and central North America)<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
  • Monarda fistulosa var. longipetiolata – (Ontario and Quebec)<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
  • Monarda fistulosa var. maheuxii – (Ontario)<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
  • Monarda fistulosa var. menthifolia – (widespread, western North America, excluding Oregon and California)<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
  • Monarda fistulosa var. mollis – (widespread, primarily eastern and central North America)<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
  • Monarda fistulosa var. rubra – (eastern North America, uncommon)<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
  • Monarda fistulosa, unnamed variety<ref>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.</ref> – (Arkansas and Oklahoma)<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

One authority states that Native Americans recognized four kinds of wild bergamot that had different odors.(Wood,1997)

Conservation status in the United States

It is listed as historical in Rhode Island.<ref name="PLANTS">Template:PLANTS</ref>

As a weed

It is listed as weed in Nebraska.<ref name="PLANTS" />


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.<ref>Wild Bergamot, USDA</ref>

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.Template:Citation needed A tea made from the plant was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental caries and gingivitis.Template:Citation needed 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.Template:Citation needed Bee balm was also used as a carminative herb by Native Americans to treat excessive flatulence.<ref>Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West, Gregory L. Tilford, Template:ISBN</ref> 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%).<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

See also




External links

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