Monarda didyma

Botanical Name :Monarda didyma
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Monarda
Species: M. didyma
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Lamiales

Common Names :Bee Balm,  Bergamot, Scarlet beebalm, Scarlet monarda, Oswego tea, or Crimson beebalm

Habitats :Bergamot didyma is native to   Eastern N. America – New York to Michigan, south to Georgia and Tennessee. It grows in  moist soils in rich woods, thickets and bottom lands.

Description:
Monarda didyma is a hardy perennial plant grows to 0.7-1.5 m in height, with the stems square in cross-section. The leaves are opposite on the square stems, 6–15 cm long and 3–8 cm broad, and dark green with reddish leaf veins and a coarsely-toothed margin; they are glabrous or sparsely pubescent above, with spreading hairs below.

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It is hardy to zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 10-Apr It is in flower from Jun to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is self-fertile. It is noted for attracting wildlife.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil.The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils..It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade.It requires moist soil.

Cultivation :
Easily grown in ordinary garden soil so long as it is not too dry. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Requires a moist soil and a sunny position. Prefers some shade but succeeds in a sunny position so long as the soil does not dry out. Plants are hardy to at least -25°c. The flowers are rich in nectar and are very attractive to bees. A good companion plant, it grows well with tomatoes. Bergamot is a very ornamental and aromatic plant, it is often grown in the herb garden, there are some named varieties. The leaves, stems and roots carry a delicious aromatic orange-like perfume when crushed. Plants are subject to mildew in dry summers.

Propagation
Seed – sow mid to late spring in a cold frame. Germination usually takes place within 10 – 40 days at 20°c. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. The seed can also be sown in situ in late summer in areas where the winters are not too severe and will produce larger plants. Cuttings of soft basal shoots in spring. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 – 10cm above the ground. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer. Division in spring or autumn. Very easy, large divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.

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Edible Uses :
Edible Parts: Flowers;  Leaves.
Leaves and young shoot tips – raw or cooked. They are used as a flavouring in salads, fruit salads, drinks etc.  Flowers – raw. They are added as an attractive garnish to salads.  An excellent aromatic tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves and flower heads.  The leaves give an Earl Grey flavour to China tea.

Medicinal Uses :
Anthelmintic;  CarminativeDiuretic;  Expectorant;  Febrifuge;  Rubefacient;  Stimulant.

Bergamot is often used as a domestic medicine, being particularly useful in the treatment of digestive disorders. The leaves and flowering stems are anthelmintic, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, rubefacient and stimulant. An infusion is used in the treatment of flatulent colic and sickness, it is also used as a diuretic to treat urinary disorders. The leaves can be harvested before the plant flowers, or they can be harvested with the flowering stems. They can be used fresh or dried. An essential oil from the herb is mainly used externally as a rubefacient in the treatment of rheumatism etc.

Bergamot tea is soothing and relaxing and makes a good night-time drink.  Add a handful of fresh leaves to your bath to sooth tired and aching limbs (in a net bag).  Native Americans used the leaves of monarda as a poultice and compress on skin eruptions, as a tea for colds and flus and inhaled as a steam to relieve sinus and lung congestion.  Scientific evidence shows that bergamot may inhibit the herpes simplex and the related chicken pox viruses.  It is also combined with other herbs to treat urinary tract infections and indigestion.

Other Uses
Essential;  Pot-pourri.

Yields an essential oil, used in perfumery, as a hair tonic etc. The dried leaves and flowers are used to scent and add colour to pot-pourri.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Monarda+didyma
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarda_didyma
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm
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