wild_bergamot_.jpg

Photo of wild bergamot or horsemint plant with lavender flowers
Noppadol Paothong
Edible
Other Common Name
Horsemint
Family

Lamiaceae (mints)

Description

A much-branched, clump-forming perennial, pleasantly scented, with square stems. Flowers normally in 1 terminal cluster, subtended by many small leaves, which 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, lavender, lilac, or rose. The subtending bracts are pale green or lilac-tinged. Blooms May–August. Leaves opposite, on definitive stalks, gray-green, with fine hairs, ovate-lanceolate, with small teeth.

Similar species: Beebalm (M. bradburiana) is quite similar, but its leaves are stemless.

Key Identifiers
  • Many-branched; forms clumps
  • Square stems
  • Flowers in a single cluster at tips of stems (not with multiple clusters stacked on the stem like kabobs)
  • Leaves opposite, with definitive stalks (leaf stems/petioles)
  • Leaves with small teeth
  • Foliage with pleasant scent
Size

Height: to about 3 feet.

wild_bergamot_cluster.jpg

Photo of wild bergamot or horsemint plant with pinkish flowers
Wild Bergamot (Horsemint)

wild_bergamot_flowers.jpg

Photo of wild bergamot or horsemint, closeup of flowers
Wild Bergamot (Horsemint) (Flowers Closeup)

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Photo of wild bergamot or horsemint plant in prairie
Wild Bergamot (Horsemint)

wild_bergamot_plants.jpg

Photo of wild bergamot or horsemint plant with pale purple blooms
Wild Bergamot (Horsemint)
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in fields, prairies, borders of woods and glades, and roadsides. It is also sometimes cultivated in native plant gardens, where it appreciates good air circulation and rather dry or well-drained conditions, which help prevent powdery mildew.

image of Wild Bergamot (Horsemint) distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

The name wild bergamot refers to the scent of the plant and its use as a culinary and medicinal herb. The fragrance of wild bergamot and its relatives in the genus Monarda is similar to the scent of the bergamot orange, which is grown mostly in Italy and harvested only for its oil. That citrus fruit is most familiar to us as the distinctive flavor of Earl Grey tea and as an ingredient in fine perfumes. Many people think that our wild bergamot (in the mint family) smells more like oregano.

Human connections

As with the other mints in this genus, this plant is cultivated to use as herbal tea, which has been valued for its medicinal qualities. It is also cultivated as a showy native plant that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. It and other horsemints make nice dried flowers.

Ecosystem connections

Many types of insects, including bees, wasps, moths, and butterflies, visit the flowers to drink nectar. Some caterpillars eat the foliage. Herbivorous mammals tend to avoid it, however, as the chemicals in the leaves seem to cause indigestion.