Wildflower Wednesday: Monarda citriodora
|Monarda citriodora, a flowering plant in the mint family (Lamiaceae) that is native to much of the United States and Mexico, has many common names. It is variously called purple horsemint, lemon beebalm, lemon horsemint, purple lemon mint, and other iterations of those names. The plant grows 1 - 2 feet tall and has unusual tuft-like, lavender to pink, whorled flower heads. Each separate whorl in the elongated spike of bloom is subtended by leaf-like bracts. Several stems grow from the plant's base and these stems have pairs of lance-shaped leaves.
This plant is extremely attractive to bees and butterflies, which accounts for one of its common names, beebalm. It has a very distinctive citrus or lemony scent when the leaves are rubbed or crushed. It is easy to grow and, over time, will form large colonies. It is classified as an annual but readily reseeds and comes back year after year. It has an exceptionally long bloom period from May through July and often, with enough water, will continue blooming even further into the summer. The plant can be susceptible to powdery mildew, but, on the plus side, it is deer-resistant.
Purple horsemint, the common name that I prefer, has many uses, primarily as a nectar plant for bees, butterflies and other insects, as well as hummingbirds. But it has also been used as food for humans. It can be used raw or cooked in salads and as flavoring in cooked foods, and a refreshing tea can also be brewed from its leaves.
Seeds of the plant are readily available. I got my start from seeds purchased at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.