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  Photos © Kim Hosen; Merrimac Farm Wildlife Management Area, Nokesville VA; August 2008  

Monarda didyma
Mint family, Lamiaceae

Beebalm, also known as horsemint, wild bergamot, monarda and Oswego tea, is a great herb that provides a wide array of different services. It is a summer herb, as it typically blooms from early to late summer, and it often grows to be between two and four feet tall.

They are native to Eastern North America and grow all the way from Ontario down to parts of Mexico. Generally, they prefer to grow in areas where they can get lots of sun and where the soils are well-drained. However, there are some species that tolerate wetter soils and some can even live along waterways. They are flowering plants, and generally produce flowers that are pink, red, purple or white.

While beebalm serves many purposes, it is well known for its medicinal properties. It was used long ago as a medicinal plant by the Native Americans, and is still used to this day. Its leaves and flowers can be used “as an antiseptic, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic and stimulant” (2). It can also be used to treat sore throats using steam inhalation, and as a treatment for skin problems and infections. The dried leaves can also be used to make tea, commonly known as Oswego Tea, which serves as an aromatic and medicinal tea.

Even though beebalm serves a variety of purposes for human use, it is also important for other wildlife species. It attracts insects such as bees and butterflies, and provides a rich nectar source for our native ruby-throated hummingbirds. In general, it is great for attracting pollinators, and even attracts the clearwing hummingbird moth.