Native plant corner

Wild bergamot (monarda fistulosa)

Wild bergamot (monarda fistulosa)

We have been enjoying the hummingbird and insect activity in a sea of wild bergamot (monarda fistulosa) blooming in the gardens since early August. A clump-forming, showy member of the mint family, monarda fistulosa is a Maine native with pale lavender to violet pom-pom like blooms which appear from late July through September. The dense globular flower of wild bergamot is made up of a cluster of hollow tube-like structures that deliver nectar to long-tongued bees, day and night flying moths, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Fritillary butterfly in wild bergamot

Fritillary butterfly in wild bergamot

Wild bergamot thrives in dryish to medium moist (but not wet) soils in full sun to partial shade and can tolerate somewhat poor soils. Typically, bergamot grows two to four feet in height, forms clumps, and may self-seed to form a substantial colony in the garden. Its complex lavender bloom sits atop a square stem. Each dense flower head rests upon a whorl of showy pink leafy bracts. The toothed greyish-green leaves are very aromatic and some use these leaves to steep for a minty tea.

Hummingbird Clearwing Sphinx Moth nectaring in wild bergamot

Hummingbird Clearwing Sphinx Moth nectaring in wild bergamot

Wild bergamot is an excellent addition to your pollinator garden and is complemented at this time of year by yellow composite flowers like native black-eyed Susans (e.g. rudbeckia hirta and rudbeckia triloba) and native ox-eye sunflower (helianthus helianthoides), mauve colored Joe-pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) and white boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum).
—Jan Getgood

PHOTOS: Jan Getgood

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