Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa, Lamiaceae.
Consider inviting wild bergamot into your garden for its beauty, medicine, and amazing ability to attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Wild bergamot is a close relative to bee balm (Monarda didyma) however, wild bergamot will thrive in hotter and drier conditions as compared to bee balm. Both bee balm and wild bergamot have been important medicines for Native American people. They are used medicinally to treat infections and digestive issues, such as gas and bloating. Wild bergamot is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and diaphoretic (brings on a sweat to break a fever). I like to use the dried leaves and flowers in a steam inhalation to help break up upper and lower respiratory congestion. Wild bergamot has a pungent aroma and flavor and can be enjoyed in tea or prepared as a tincture. The lavender flowers are edible and can be used as a garnish or tossed in salads for an extra splash of color. The leaves can be mixed with basil to create a pungent twist on the classic pesto. Wild bergamot is an herbaceous perennial; it grows 3-4’ tall by indefinitely wide. Full sun, average to well-drained soil. Zones 3-8. The seeds are Lilliputian-tiny and must be planted on the surface of the soil and misted or bottom watered (to avoid burying them too deep in the soil). For most gardeners, it’s easier to purchase a plant or divide a bit of the root from a friend’s plant. Wild bergamot spreads vigorously by runners, similar to mint. Plant it where it can go hog wild, or contain it with a rhizome barrier, as you would for mint or bamboo.