Native Plant of the Week: Spotted Bee Balm ~ Monarda punctata

Other Common Names: Dotted Horse Mint

This plant is classified as an annual, biennial and perennial according to the USDA Plant Database. In my own yard, it does reseed and I have new plants coming up around the parent plant which so far has been perennial for the last 3 years.

This native plant prefers medium to dry, well drained soils in a sunny location. It is related to the Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) but quite unlike the Bergamot in appearance. It does extremely well on our sunny gravel slope. The flowers are quite unique, flowering from the bottom upwards on the flower stem in whorled layers.

The whorled leaves below the flowers are white to pink in color and the flowers are an interesting light yellow speckled with rusty red. The plant for me resembles a pineapple with its upward pointing leaves at the growth tip.

A large clump of this native stands out amongst prairie forbs and grasses with its light colored leaves. In the evening and under moonlight it glows. Spotted Bee Balm flowers from mid July through September.

The great black wasp and other wasp species seem to prefer this plant in our yard over any other plant. There will be several nectaring on the flowers throughout the day. The pollen collects on the backs of the wasps as illustrated in the photos and helps in the pollination of the flowers as the stigma hangs out near the tip of the upper petal of the flower.

Spotted Bee Balm is native to south and eastern North America. Link to USDA map.

More information on the historical uses and propagating Monarda punctata on the USDA Plant Database information sheet.