Garden Variety Monarda

I’ve seen Monarda out in the fields and pastures for years. Two kinds, beebalm and horsemint, grow here. They are similar. they are not the garden variety Monarda.

The flowers are long downwardly curving tubes of light lavender with lavender spots. These come from a spherical base and hang out looking like a loose mop head.

Horsemint blooms first. It likes to grow in the woods and has leaves that sit down on the stem.

Horsemint flower
In wild beebalm the bottom ring of a Monarda flower head opens first followed by succeeding higher rings until all have bloomed. In the garden variety, most of the flowers open at the same time.

Beebalm likes the sunny pastures. Its leaves have petioles. That’s the easy way to tell them apart.

The garden variety of Monarda is different.

The flower arrangement is similar. The long tubes hang from a central sphere. The mop heads top every stem.

Color is the big difference. The garden variety Monarda is deep red. The leaves are more triangular and deeper green.

red garden variety Monarda
Typical of the mint family, red Monarda has a square stem. The leaves are opposite. The flowers are a deep maroon red. It makes a lovely, if pushy garden plant.

In another way the so-called tame Monarda is typical of the family. This is the mint family.

I obtained this red Monarada as a tiny plant, innocent looking. The fact that it is a mint never crossed my mind. I set it out in the flower section of my garden and ignored it.

That was several years ago. It is no longer ignored.

butterflies like garden variety Monarda
Monarda is a clump of tall, single stems from a single fibrous root system. At first the stems were a modest two feet tall. This year they are four feet tall and fill 2 square feet of space. Insects love them.

In typical mint fashion, this tiny plant has expanded into a large clump. It is not a short, pretty flower. It is four feet tall. At least it doesn’t have long runners.

I stopped to admire it late the other day. Bumblebees hummed tumbling from one flower to the next. A pipevine swallowtail butterfly hovered feeding on the different flowers. This was close to sunset so I’m sure other insects visit earlier in the day.

I do like having a flower corner in my garden as I have no time to do a regular one. Unfortunately it seems filled with tall, leggy plants now. Chicory, evening primrose and now garden variety Monarda hide my lilies and irises. They are nice. They are too numerous. The Monarda clump is getting too big. I guess I will have to work in the garden flower spot for a time this fall.