Bradbury Beebalm

Monarda bradburiana (sometimes M. russeliana)
Edible
Other Common Name
Beebalm; Horsemint; Wild Bergamot
Family

Lamiaceae (mints)

Description

A clump-forming perennial with square, unbranched stems. All parts of the plant have a pleasant aroma. Flowers normally in 1 terminal cluster, subtended by many small leaves that frequently are rose-purple. Floral tubes to 1½ inches long, ending in 2 lips, the lower broad and recurving, the upper arching upward with stamens protruding. Flower color can be white with purple spots, pale lavender, or pinkish. Blooms April–June. Leaves minutely hairy, inconspicuously toothed, lanceolate, opposite, nearly sessile, each pair at right angles to the nearest set.

Similar species: Seven species in the genus Monarda have been recorded for Missouri. Of these, two others are most widespread:

  • Wild bergamot, or horsemint (M. fistulosa) is quite similar, but its leaves each have a definite stem.
  • Lemon mint or lemon beebalm (M. citriodora) is scattered mainly in the southern half of the state; it is a branching annual, and there are 2–6 rounded flower clusters, one atop the other, on the flowering stalk. Beneath each flower cluster is a whorl of narrow bracts that are white to pink to lavender. Upper leaves may be in whorls. Crushed foliage emits a scent like lemon or oregano.
Key Identifiers
  • Forms clumps, but stems do not branch
  • Stems square
  • Flowers usually in a single cluster at the tip of the stem (clusters not stacked atop one another on the stem)
  • Leaves lance-shaped, inconspicuously toothed
  • Leaves opposite, nearly sessile (without much of a leaf stem/petiole)
  • Each pair of leaves is at a right angle to the pair just above and below
  • Foliage with pleasant aroma.
Size

Height: to about 2 feet.

Habitat and conservation

Occurs in dry, open woods and edges of glades, usually on acid soil. Also found in gardens and in landscaping.

image of Beebalm Bradbury Beebalm Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Ozarks and northeastern counties; cultivated statewide.

Human connections

The showy blossoms and fragrant flowers and leaves make this a favorite native plant for gardening. Some people cultivate it in order to make a tea out of the foliage. Others enjoy the butterflies and hummingbirds it attracts. Still others appreciate its tolerance for rather poor, dry soils.

Ecosystem connections

The flowers of this plant attract many butterflies and other insects, which gather nectar and pollinate the flowers in the process.