Monday, July 9, 2012

Monardas of Maryland

Each time I walk by some Monarda in the restored grasslands at Chino Farms I’m reminded how beautiful nature can be.  Others working in the fields this summer have also commented on the beauty of these plants and asked if I knew what they were. Inspired by these questions, here is an overview of the species of Monarda found in Maryland.

Bee Balm, Monarda didyma. Has brilliant crimson flowers with oval, narrowly pointed and toothed leaves. Found in moist woods, thickets and bottomlands.

Monarda is a genus made up of 16 species, five of which occur in Maryland and all of which are endemic to North America. Monardas belong in the family Lamiaceae (the mint family) and share several characteristics common in the mint family such as having square stems and leaves that are fragrant when crushed.
Four out of the five species occurring in Maryland can be found on Chino Farms. Dotted Monarda and Wild Bergamot are found growing in the restored grasslands while Bee Balm and Purple Bergamot were planted in the native plant garden at Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory. 

Purple Bergamot, Monarda media. Purple Flowers with leaves that are oval or broadly triangular. Found in moist woods and thickets.
Wild Bergamot, Monarda fitulosa. Pink flowers with narrowly triangular or oval leaves that are pointed and toothed. Upland woods, thickets and prairies.

Several Native American tribes used plants in the genus Monarda for medicinal purposes. They were used as antiseptics, made into a tea to treat mouth and throat infections and also used to stop headaches.  Monards were also used to season game meat. 

Dotted Monarda, Monarda punctata. Whitish to pink flowers with narrow oval or oblong leaves. Found in dry fields and roadsides.

Bee Balm, White Bergamot and Purple Bergamot are found in the mountainous regions of Maryland, while Wild Bergamot and Dotted Monarda are widespread and can be found throughout the state. White Bergamot is ranked as a S1 plant (highly state rare) by the Maryland Natural Heritage Program, and Purple Bergamot is ranked as a SU meaning possibly rare but status uncertain. 

White Bergamot, Monarda clinopodia.  White flowers with narrow triangular or oval leaves that are rounded at the base. Found in moist woods, thickets, ravines and banks. Photo by Homer Price.

 Thanks to Homer Edward Price for his use of his photo, Information for this post was gathered from Wikipedia, the MD Natural Heritage Programs, Rare, Threatened and Endangered Plants of MD report, An excellent wildflower guide, Wildflowers in the Field and Forest by Steven Clemants and Carol Gracie was also very useful.

Dan Small is a field ecologist at the Chester River Field Research Station

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