Bee-balm, Oswego Tea - Monarda didyma (Mint family - Labiatae)
Bee-balm, Oswego Tea -
Monarda didyma (Mint family - Labiatae)
The ragged scarlet pompom of tubular flowers is easily recognized. Leaves
paired on the square stem. 2 - 3 ft. Wet places, thickets, stream banks.
The stem is square in cross-section (a characteristic of most mints)
and hairy at the nodes. The scarlet flowers are further complemented
by the red-tinged bracts and the red tinge of the leaves just below
them. This red color and the long tubular flowers make them attractive
to hummingbirds and butterflies but not bees as the common name suggests.
Another common name is Oswego-Tea, a reference to the use of its leaves by patriots in their boycott against the use of China tea because of the English import taxes. The Oswego Indians, who lived in an area now known as Oswego, New York, also used the herb to flavor meats and other foods. Herb doctors found this plant a useful remedy for flatulence and nervous stomach. The generic name dedicates the plant to Nicholas Monardes, author of many publications on medicinal and other useful plants in America.