“Wild Bergamot, a Tea and a Balm”


An aromatic member of the mint family, this perennial packs a punch as part of the pollinator and songbird habitat, stabilization of shorelines, competition with invasive species, and medicinal uses. It is also known as “bee balm,” “wild oregano,” “Oswego tea,” and “purple wizard head.” Blooms from June to September and growth is clumped from 2-4 feet in open woods, prairies, fields, roadsides  in “almost every US state. Monarda fistulosa” refers to the tubular petals of the flowers whose colors vary from pale to deep pink or rosy lavender. The blooms that are set on a whorl of pink to red-tinted bracts have been described as “ragged pompoms.” Foliage is grayish-green to dark green with lance-shaped leaves. Not to be confused with the bergamot fruit–the bergamot herb is named after the bergamot flavoring, which is named after the fruit. The fruit is named after the town of Bergamo in Italy. The name Oswego tea comes from the Oswego Native Americans in present-day Oswego County in upstate New York. The Oswego people would brew tea out of the leaves of the plant, a process they taught to the European settlers, another alternative after the Boston Tea Party.

A pollinator favorite, bergamot is a host plant for the sphinx moth, an important pollinator of prairies, and is a valuable source of nectar for monarch butterflies. Historically used as a type of “Vick’s vapor rub,” if you will, with her strong minty aroma and antimicrobial properties helping with cough and cold symptoms.

Lakota people call her “elk medicine plant,” referring to the use of bergamot for sore throats of young men hoping to court a sweetheart by singing to her–often for weeks on end.

Bergamot is accompanied by the sweet little Delaware Skipper butterfly and bees in appreciation of the partnership between prairie plants and pollinators.

Original mixed media on raw stretched canvas.

Framed Size: 37x49x2(inches)

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