Latin for Gardeners: July 2018

July’s Native Maryland Plant
Monarda didyma L.  (mo-NAR-da DID-ee-muh)
Common Name: Scarlet beebalm, Oswego tea

Too busy to make a splash at the beach?  Then make a splash in your garden with Monarda didyma!  This summer I’m doing my best not to get red like this prolific perennial blooming in my garden.  Monarda didyma is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae); it has a long bloom period, and its tubular flowers are perfect for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. I have yet to see long tongue bees on my Monarda spp., although there are plenty of them elsewhere in my garden. 


Linnaeus named the genus Monarda in honor of a 16th century Spanish botanist, Nicolas Bautista Monardes (1493-1588). The species name didyma translates from Latin meaning "in pairs" or "twins", referring to the stamens occurring in pairs. The common name refers to the use by Native Americans of rubbing crushed leaves of the plant on the skin to treat bee stings. Be aware of powdery mildew with Monarda spp. If you provide the plant with good air circulation and no watering from above it helps combat this fungal leaf disease. 


Fun Fact: Monarda didyma was a substitute for “real tea” after the Boston Tea Party.  This species is sometimes called Oswego tea for the Native American tribe who found many uses of it. Stay tuned, next month we’ll meet a shrub whose dried leaves are also used as a tea substitute.  For now, grab yourself an iced tea and have a Happy Fourth of July!

~ Alison Milligan – MG/MN 2013
Watershed Steward Class 7

Latin for Gardeners: June 2018

June’s Native Maryland Plant
Tiarella cordifolia L.
(tee-ar-EL-lah kor-dih-FOE-lee-ah) 
Common Name: Foamflower


Summer is here – let’s head to the beach! If you’re not able to visit the beach this month you can create the appearance of seafoam in your garden if you plant Tiarella cordifolia. Tiarella cordifolia gets its common name from its bloom which looks like seafoam, especially when planted in large sweeps. I have this plant growing in both partial and deep shade in a moist area in my garden. It makes a lovely low-maintenance groundcover that can be evergreen during warmer winters. It spreads by sending out stolons and can easily be divided in spring or fall. It’s attractive to many bees, especially in early spring, and brightens up those darker areas in a woodland garden.


Tiarella cordifolia is a clump-forming perennial with delicate, star-shaped flowers that sprout numerous stamens. The very conspicuous stamens with white linear filaments and oval anthers are what give the plant its “foamy” appearance.  I love Tiarella cordifolia for its long bloom period and weed suppressing ability. 

Alison Milligan MG 2013

Latin for Gardeners: May 2018

Alison Milligan, Class 7 Master Watershed Steward, writes monthly articles about natives to share with Master Gardeners. When she first started "Latin for Gardeners" two years ago, Alison wanted to encourage people to learn the Latin names of natives so they could request the right plant when out shopping. Thank you, Alison, for sharing your knowledge with us!

May’s Native Maryland Plant
Amelanchier canadensis (L.) Medik.
(am-meh-LANG-kee-er kan-uh-DEN-sis) 
Common Name: Serviceberry, Shadbush


Each year I anxiously await the blooming of the Amelanchier canadensis in my garden – when it blooms I know spring is finally here. The delicate, pure white, 5-petaled, slightly fragrant flowers attract early pollinators and appear before the oblong, finely-toothed leaves.  In mid-summer the blooms will be replaced with delicious berries that birds and squirrels will vie over.  Shadbush is the common name because Amelanchier canadensis flowering coincides with the annual migration of shad in New England rivers.
As you look out at Maryland’s landscape this month, within your neighborhood and along the highways, you’ll see the very invasive Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana) - also blooming white. However, if you’re lucky and you look with a discerning eye you might spot an Amelanchier canadensis. This lovely native tree has three-season interest and plays an important role in providing nectar and pollen for early spring pollinators.  If you have a moist-wet area with partial-shade this is a nice understory tree.  You’ll enjoy the early blooms and you won’t be able to ignore the myriad of birds that come for the berries in June.


NOTE: Callery pear was introduced as an ornamental in 1964 and has since invaded North America and Canada, outcompeting native plants and trees.

~ Alison Milligan – MG 2013