Yes, this plant is about as common here as wearing socks…well, except it’s summer and a blisteringly hot one at that and everyone is currently shod in sandals and…where was I? Yeah. Wild bergamot, sometimes called horsemint. Monarda fistulosa (syn. M. menthifolia, M. bradburrana). Socks in winter. Ahem.
It looks pretty marvelous, especially when photographed in the early morning. One of my favourite Alberta wildflowers. Me and the bees. 🙂
Taking advantage of a day off of work and some fabulously sunny weather, my hubby and I took a short jaunt up to Nose Hill Park yesterday. (As an aside, did you know that Calgary has the “most sunny days year-’round” of any place in Canada? Of course, there is also snow on the ground during most of those sunny days…we’re not exactly a beach community here. Still, if you’re looking for the clincher reason to live in Calgary, the sun has got to be it!). We didn’t see the deer and coyotes that frequent the Hill (although tracks were everywhere!), but we still found a ton of interesting things to look at and photograph.
One of my subjects was a dried clump of wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa). They grow everywhere on the Hill, and I especially enjoy watching the bees go absolutely mad for them in the summertime. A quick check in Linda Kershaw‘s guide to Alberta Wayside Wildflowers(2003, Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton) gives a bit of insight into the plant’s historical uses:
European settlers and Native peoples gathered this aromatic plant for flavouring salads, cooked vegetables and stews and for making a pleasant minty tea. Dried, powdered leaves were sprinkled on food to keep flies and other insects away and were rubbed onto hair, skin, clothing and even favourite horses as perfume.
Have you ever used bergamot (bee balm) leaves in cooking or for tea? And do you grow cultivated varieties of Monarda in your garden? They’re definitely on my list of plants to try in my own garden this year!