Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot)

Plant Info
Also known as: Horsemint, Bee Balm, Mint-leaf Bea-balm
Genus:Monarda
Family:Lamiaceae (Mint)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:sun; dry fields, prairies, along roads
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:2 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] Round cluster 1 to 2 inches across of tubular flowers, solitary at the end of branching stems arising from leaf axils. Color ranges from purple to lavender to pink, rarely white. Individual flowers have a ¼-inch wide curved lower lip and a thin straight upper lip. The upper lip has a tuft of white hairs at the tip, the lower is hairy on the underside and lobed with a short rectangular extension at the tip that is notched in 2 parts. 2 brown-tipped stamens extend beyond the tip of the upper lip. A tubular calyx holds each flower.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are coarsely toothed, 1 to 4 inches long and up to 1½ inches wide, rounded at the leaf base and tapering to a point at the tip, on leaf stalks up to 5/8 inch long. Leaves are hairy underneath and smooth or hairy on the upper surface. Attachment is opposite. The stem is a reddish brown color, square, and hairy to varying degrees.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of developing seed head] The flowers drop off leaving the calyxes behind. Seed develops inside the calyx. The head turns dark brown as the seed ripens.

[photo of seed] Seed is smooth, brown, oval, and just over 1 millimeter long.

Notes:

There are 2 varieties of Wild Bergamot in Minnesota, var. fistulosa, very common throughout the state, and var. menthaefolia, a more western species found in only a few Minnesota counties. The latter is a shorter, little branched plant with leaf stalks that are rarely over 3/8 inch long, but is otherwise very similar. Wild Bergamot is one of my favorite flowers. In full bloom, the flower head looks like a little fireworks display. It is an excellent garden plant. The dried leaves and flower heads are wonderfully aromatic; Bergamot oils have been used in natural healing for centuries.

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More photos

Except where noted, photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Ramsey, Anoka and Dodge counties.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Lisa R - Nevis (north central Minnesota
on: 2009-08-19 09:26:45

I've been seeing a lot of these along the Heartland Trail this year. Do they bloom every year? It seems like there are a lot of years I don't see any, then they return.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2009-08-20 06:34:43

Wild bergamot is a perennial, so they should bloom year after year. Weather might have an effect on how well it does, but this year they did OK around the Metro even with the drought.

Posted by: Joe - Springbrook Nature Center
on: 2010-09-07 14:26:01

Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley, MN, north of Minneapolis, has a small prairie-like area where these grow. Also this past July, I saw acres and acres of this plant along the interstate in the states south of Minnesota. It really is a gorgeous flower and a useful herb.

Posted by: Kit - tamarack nature center, white bear township
on: 2011-07-13 15:06:54

Just today enjoyed fields with this flower in full bloom, along with the bright Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan) -- gorgeous flowers, gorgeous combination. We also have many patches of Monarda fistulosa growing alongside the Lake Como shoreline, thanks to restoration efforts.

Posted by: Allan - Minneapolis
on: 2011-07-30 21:51:50

There is a fair amount of this growing along the bike/walking paths north of Cedar Lake.

Posted by: Kathy - St. Paul
on: 2012-07-14 11:29:36

What can the herb be used for?

Posted by: Starr - Renville and Redwood Counties
on: 2014-07-12 15:03:26

Gorgeous plants! They are in random patches in the ditches of Renville and Redwood counties. I transplanted some to my garden and they come back each year.

Posted by: Paul - SAINT PAUL
on: 2014-07-17 15:39:26

Blooming by the thousands July 17, 2014, in the restored prairie in Afton State Park, Washington County.

Posted by: Maureen - Rollingstone
on: 2014-08-08 12:52:49

Glad to find this website and identify this plant. Lots of plants growing freely in non-mowed pastures and along roads..

Posted by: Mae - Lake of the Woods county
on: 2014-08-08 14:53:26

I've seen these near Williams, MN

Posted by: J.H. - Martin County
on: 2014-08-10 08:38:49

These grow all over in Martin County.

Posted by: Gustav - North Central
on: 2015-08-03 23:35:34

Along Paul Bunyan Trail between Pequot Lakes, and Backus. Doing very well this year

Posted by: linda - Hythecker and Shooting Star S & N areas
on: 2015-08-22 09:22:31

Found this on guided tour of these areas on 8-8-15.

Posted by: Bob - Cohasset
on: 2015-11-04 10:31:58

Live in northern Illinois, moving to MN next year. We bought a couple native plants in Grand Rapids and put them in the ground here. They are the Rudbeckia & Bergamot. I waited for the flowers to drop and clipped off the center of the flower after it turned brown. What is the best way to be sure and secure the seeds so we can plant them on our property in Cohasset. We are going to move the 2 plants from this site, but want to be able to have more plants from the seed. Thank You, Bob

Posted by: Brenda - Wells township, Faribault MN
on: 2016-07-09 16:13:17

SWCD plants, first planted in 2015 as a butterfly garden. I'm hoping to move some to a new area of our acreage for naturalization.

Posted by: Scott - Minneapolis
on: 2016-07-10 21:31:12

I've seen these these growing along the Greenway in Minneapolis. I noticed that the leaves smell very much like oregano. I was wondering, has anyone has cooked with these leaves?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-07-10 21:53:31

The leaves are commonly brewed for tea.

Posted by: Matthew - Bloomington
on: 2017-04-25 23:41:40

Ruby Throated Hummingbirds love this plant. If you happen to be in the south metro a large track of this plant is by the front entrance of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Refuge Headquarters and Bloomington Education and Visitor Center
3815 American Blvd. East
Bloomington, MN 55425
Phone: 952-854-5900

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