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January 2011
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Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) – a member of the Mint family

Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is a perennial which is also known as Bee balm. It is a wild flower and a member of Mint family, Labiatae. This perennial is native of North America and can grow up to a height of 3 ft (0.9 m) tall. They can grow taller in some places up to a height of about five feet. This is a medicinal plant and is also used as a honey plant or ornamental plant. It has few erect branches. The leaves are lance shaped and can grow up to a length of 2–3 in (5.1–7.6 cm). The leaves are toothed. The flowers are in form of clusters that are 1.5 in (3.8 cm) in length. Each cluster has 20-50 flowers approximately. They bloom from June – September and are in pinkish-purple color. It belongs to mint family and hence has a fragrance of mint. This plant is a good source of Thyme oil. Four of the varieties of Wild bergamot are recognized and they have slightly different fragrances. Two of its varieties are M. f. fistulosa – Wild bergamot and M. f. brevis – Smoke Hole bergamot.
These plants grow from the creeping rhizomes and hence form clumps that are large. They need rich and well drained and moist soil to grow well. The plant is also used to treat colds and flu and used to make tea. The tea made from the plant treats mouth and throat infections like caries and gingivitis. The primary ingredient, Thymol, is used in many mouthwash formulas. The foliage and leaves are used in herbal teas and for garnishing. This plant attracts bees and butterflies and birds.

Growing Conditions of Wild Bergamot

• This plant needs full sun to partial shade.
• This plant needs rich and well-drained soil.
• The plant should be spaced 8 to 12 inches apart.
• Add organic compost in the soil weeks before planting to enrich the soil.
• Water the plants once, seven to 10 days in the growing season, about 6 inches in water.
• Keep the soil moist but not soggy.
• Do not let the soil dry out as it can make the plant grow mildew.
• Plants are prone to mildew if grown in dry soil. Soak the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches during each watering.
• Use a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer in spring every year.
• Add layer of mulch of 1-2 inches around the plant to conserve moisture.

Care for wild Bergamot

• Keep the soil moist but not soggy.
• Avoid over fertilization which can increase chances of mildew growth.
• Remove the old and spent flower to elongate the blooming period.
• Cut the plant to several inches close to soil after flowering to encourage new growth and heavy blooming the next season.
• If powdery mildew is affected then the infected stem has to be cut down as a remedy.

Images of the plant.

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