Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Monarda didyma


Scarlet beebalm, Oswego tea, Red bergamot


Lamiaceae (Mint Family)



Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm)
Nature Center of Charleston
A dense, rounded, terminal, head-like cluster of bright red, tubular flowers atop a square stem. Scarlet beebalm is a popular perennial with scarlet-red flowers in terminal tufts. The 3 ft. stems are lined with large, oval, dark-green leaves. Individual flowers are narrowly tube-shaped, tightly clustered together in 2 in. heads. The leaves have a minty aroma.

This species is coarser than true mints (Mentha) but is very showy and frequently cultivated in gardens. Hummingbirds are especially attracted to the red flowers. The alternate common name Oswego Tea refers to the use of the leaves for a tea by the Oswegos of New York. Early colonists also used the plant for this purpose when regular tea was scarce. A white-flowered variant is sometimes grown in gardens.

It is susceptible to powdery mildew, but some cultivars, such as Jacob Cline, are mildew resistant.

Linnaeus named the genus Monarda in honor of a 16th century Spanish physician and botanist, Nicolas Bautista Monardes (1493-1588). Monardes never went to the Americas but was able to study medicinal plants in Spain because Spain controlled navigation and commerce from the New World.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Size Notes: Normally 2 to 4 feet tall, but can get to 6 feet
Flower: Flowers in 2 to 4 inch clusters
Fruit: Brown
Size Class: 1-3 ft. , 3-6 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct
Bloom Notes: Will bloom from midsummer to fall in its natural montane and Northeastern habitat. In the Southeast, blooms from late spring to early summer.

Distribution

USA: CT , GA , IL , IN , IA , KY , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MO , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OR , PA , SC , TN , VT , VA , WA , WV , WI
Canada: NB , ON , QC
Native Distribution: OH to NJ, s. along mts. to GA & TN; escaped elsewhere
Native Habitat: Moist, open woods; meadows; stream banks; mountains to 6500 feet

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet , Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rich, moist, acid soils. Juglone tolerant.

Benefit

Use Ornamental: Valued for its bright flowers and minty aroma
Use Wildlife: Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees are attracted to the blossoms of Oswego tea.
Use Food: Occasionally used in Earl Grey tea.
Use Medicinal: Its medicinal uses include expelling worms, and for treating gas, fever and stomach ailments. (Lamb/Rhynard) The name Oswego Tea comes from the fact that the leaves were used for a tea by the Oswego Indains of New York. Early settlers also used the plant for this purpose when regular tea was scarce. (Niering) The name Beebalm comes from the folk use of crushed leaves to soothe bee stings.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes
Attracts: Hummingbirds , Butterflies
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: Moderate

Last Update: 2013-09-09