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NPIN: Native Plant Database

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Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm)
Nature Center of Charleston

Monarda didyma

Monarda didyma L.

Scarlet beebalm, Oswego tea, Red bergamot

Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

Synonym(s):

USDA Symbol: MODI

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

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.

 

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 , IA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OR , PA , SC , TN , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV
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: Moist , Wet
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: Butterflies , Hummingbirds
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: Moderate

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees
Special Value to Bumble Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Propagation

Propagation Material: Root Division , Seeds , Softwood Cuttings
Description: Propagate by softwood cuttings taken in late spring; increase by division of mature clumps in the spring before the plants send up stems; or sow seed. Also propagated by root division.
Seed Collection: Seeds mature 1-3 weeks after flowering. Bend the stem over and tap the fruiting heads. If brown seeds fall out readily, they are mature. Air-dry, clean and store in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Can colonize by rhizomes. If want to keep in bounds, divide every 3 years.

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National Wetland Indicator Status

Region:AGCPAKAWCBEMPGPHIMWNCNEWMVE
Status: FAC FAC UPL FACU FAC
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Suppliers Directory

According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:

Carolina Wild - Anderson, SC
Wrights Nursery - Briggs, TX
Amandas Garden - Springwater, NY
Sunshine Farm & Gardens - Renick, WV
Enchanter's Garden - Hinton, WV
American Native Nursery - Quakertown, PA
Prairie Nursery - Westfield, WI

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
United States Botanic Garden - Washington, DC
NPSOT - Williamson County Chapter - Georgetown, TX
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
* Available Online from Wildflower Center Store

Bibliography

Bibref 928 - 100 easy-to-grow native plants for Canadian gardens (2005) Johnson, L.; A. Leyerle
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 199 - National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers : Eastern Region (2001) J. W. Thieret; W. A. Niering; N. C. Olmstead
Bibref 1262 - Plants of Carolinian Canada (1994) Lamb, Larry and Gail Rhynard
* The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1993 VOL. 10, NO.3 - Miss Helen Hayes Memorial, Director's Report, Monarda Medicinal Mints of Distinc...
Wildflower Newsletter 1996 VOL. 13, NO.3 - Hummingbird Gardening, Blooms Beget Butterflies, Butterflies and Hummingbirds Fo...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Monarda didyma in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Monarda didyma in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Monarda didyma

Metadata

Record Modified: 2013-09-09
Research By: TWC Staff

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