(Monarda didyma) Mint family

Flowers - Scarlet, clustered in a solitary, terminal, rounded

head of dark-red calices, with leafy bracts below it. Calyx

narrow, tubular, sharply 5-toothed; corolla tubular, widest at

the mouth, 2-lipped, 1 1/2 to 2 inches long; 2 long,

anther-bearing stamens ascending, protruding; 1 pistil; the style

2-cleft. Stem: 2 to 3 ft. tall. Leaves: Aromatic, opposite, dark

green, oval to oblong lance-shaped, sharply saw-edged, often

hairy beneath, petioled; upper leaves and bracts often red.

Preferred Habitat - Moist soil, especially near streams, in hilly

or mountainous regions.

Flowering Season - July-September.

Distribution - Canada to Georgia, west to Michigan.

Gorgeous, glowing scarlet heads of bee balm arrest the dullest

eye, bracts and upper leaves often taking on blood-red color,

too, as if it had dripped from the lacerated flowers. Where their

vivid doubles are reflected in a shadowy mountain stream, not

even the cardinal flower is more strikingly beautiful. Thrifty

clumps transplanted from Nature's garden will spread about ours

and add a splendor like the flowers of salvia, next of kin, if

only the roots get a frequent soaking.

With even longer flower tubes than the wild bergamot's (q.v.),

the bee balm belies its name, for, however frequently bees may

come about for nectar when it rises high, only long-tongued

bumblebees could get enough to compensate for their trouble.

Butterflies, which suck with their wings in motion plumb the

depths. The ruby-throated hummingbird - to which the Brazilian

salvia of our gardens has adapted itself - flashes about these

whorls of Indian plumes just as frequently - of course

transferring pollen on his needle-like bill as he darts from

flower to flower. Even the protruding stamens and pistil take on

the prevailing hue. Most of the small, blue or purple flowered

members of the mint family cater to bees by wearing their

favorite color; the bergamot charms butterflies with magenta, and

tubes so deep the short-tongued mob cannot pilfer their sweets;

and from the frequency of the hummingbird's visits, from the

greater depth of the bee balm's tubes and their brilliant,

flaring red - an irresistibly attractive color to the ruby-throat

- it would appear that this is a bird flower. Certainly its

adaptation is quite as perfect as the salvia's. Mischievous bees

and wasps steal nectar they cannot reach legitimately through

bungholes of their own making in the bottom of the slender casks.

"This species," says Mr. Ellwanger, "is said to give a decoction

but little inferior to the true tea, and was largely used as a

substitute" by the Indians and the colonists, who learned from

them how to brew it.

ORPINE LIVEFOREVER MIDSUMMERMEN LIVELONG PUDDINGBAG PAINTBRUSH facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail