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