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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Friday - September 18, 2015

From: austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: How to tell Monarda citriodora from Monarda punctata.
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Hello! I'm wondering if you could clarify the differences between Monarda citriodora and Monarda punctata. Perhaps they do a lot of hybridizing, but I have plenty of conflicting info on id's with these two, even among numerous keys and databases. Visually I've seen what seems to be M.punctata resemble M.citriodora, but perhaps a just bit less showy, slightly more spots with a potent medicinal and herbal fragrance of thyme or oregano than M.citriodora, which I associate with a more showy inflorescence and always a citrusy lemon fragrance. I've never experienced what I believe is M.citriodora as smelling of oregano or thyme, and never looking any different whereas M.punctata varies pretty widely from it's typical characteristics (even within the same patch) and always smells herbal and medicinal to me. Does this make sense? What gives?

ANSWER:

Monarda citriodora is easily distinguished from Monarda punctata by flower characteristics.  The flowers of Monarda citriodora are pink (sometimes white) and have no (or few) spots.  The flowers of Monarda punctata are white to creamy-yellow and have purple or maroon spots.  The showy bracts below the flowers of both species are usually pink or magenta.  However, you're right that each species can exhibit a lot of variability in their characteristics.

The crushed leaves of Monarda citriodora emit a citrus scent, while the leaves of Monarda punctata impart a fragrance most often compared to oregano.

 

From the Image Gallery


Lemon beebalm
Monarda citriodora

Spotted beebalm
Monarda punctata

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