Monarda fistulosa Cowles Bog

Family:     Lamiaceae (Mint family)

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     30-120 cm (1-4 ft)

Blooming: July-Sept.


Wild Bergamot

Monarda fistulosa  L.

 Stem: reddish-brown and square.  

Flowers: lavender colored (sometimes a little more purple and sometimes a little more pink).  They are about 2.54 cm (1 in) long.  The tubular flowers form in tight 7.6 cm (3 in) diameter heads in mid-summer at ends of branches.  Each flower is held by a calyx tube and is bisexual.

Leaves: young leaves are opposite; purplish green, triangular to egg-shaped with toothed margins and short stalks on the stem.  It is very fragrant often oregano-like smell when crushed.  Mature leaves are similar in all respects to young leaves.  They are up to 10.2 cm (4 in) long by 5 cm (2 in) wide, with strong white to reddish midribs.  Undersides of the leaves are always hairy.  Hair on the upperside of the leaf is not consistent.  

Sun:  Full to part sun

Ideal Conditions:  Moist to Dry Sunny Areas

INPAWS Native Communities:  Prairie Grassland (sun);  Wood's Edge (part shade)

Season Change: Button-shaped remains of flower heads turn brown after flowers fall and persist through winter. 

Monarda fistulosa- Howes Prairie
Monarda fistulosum south dakota

Comments: Bergamot comes from the fragrance resembling the Italian bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia). Another common name is "bee balm". The fragrance in the plant is caused by volatile oils that are on the hair-like trichomes. Wild bergamot has been used as food seasoning and as a tea by American Natives.  

Etymology: The name Monarda comes from a 16th century botanist and physician named Nicolás Monardes, and fistulosum comes from the Latin word for "tubular".  

all photos by Nathanael Pilla


Eastman, J.A. 2003. The Book of Field and Roadside: Open-Country Weeds, Trees, and Wildflowers of Eastern North America. Stackpole Bookes, Mechanicsburg, PA. pp. 35-37.

Kindscher, K. 1987. Edible wild plants of the prairie: an ethnobotanical guide. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. pp. 149-152.

Species Present and Native