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Wild Bergamot


Common Name Wild Bergamot

Latin Name: Monarda fistulosa

[Pronounced: "moh- NARD-ah fist-yu-LOH-sah"]

Type of Plant: Prairie forb ("wildflower")

Identification Helps: Wild bergamot is a common Ohio wildflower. Unlike most prairie forbs, wild bergamot commonly grows in non-prairie areas across the state. It commonly blooms in July and August. It’s lavender flowers are easily identified (see illustration).

Preferred Growing Conditions in the Wild: Wild bergamot grows naturally both in prairies and non-prairie areas, especially in ditches and old fields. It prefers soils of average (mesic, pronounced "MEES-ik " or "MEHZ-ik") moisture availability. Extremely dry or wet sites are not favorable.

Preferred Soils: The species grows in almost all soil types, but does not do well in continually wet or sandy dry soils.

Seasons of Growth and Bloom: New seasonal growth begins in mid- to late April. Vegetative growth continues into July, with flowerheads forming in early July and continuing into August or later.

Natural Distribution in Ohio: Wild bergamot is found naturally throughout the state.

Description and General Information: Wild bergamot is a member of the mint family of plants. It’s flowers and foliage have slight mint-like fragrance. In pre-settlement times, the species was probably found primarily on prairies. But unlike most prairie plants which seldom grow by themselves in non-prairie areas, wild bergamot grows easily in all open field habitats. The discovery of a patch of wild bergamot does not reveal a former prairie. For most prairie plants, that’s so, but wild bergamot grows throughout the state in many ditch and field environments.

Be sure to give this mint a good, gratifying sniff. The fragrance is a mild delight. Even in the dead of winter, the dead flower heads can be crushed to release a bit of mint aroma.

Monarda fistulosa seeds are abundant and tiny. The plant is easily grown in a garden, and it makes an exceptional garden or landscape plant. It is a long-lived perennial. Like most prairie plants, it is seldom effected by summer drought and requires no fertilizing or pesticides.