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Species Spotlight: Spotted Bee Balm (Monarda punctata)

Spotted Beebalm in bloom

Interesting facts:

  • The genus name honors Nicholas Monardes (1493-1588), a physician and botanist of Seville, Spain.

  • Individual spotted bee balm plants are often short-lived, with some plants persisting for only 1 or 2 years.

  • Spotted Beebalm is also commonly called Dotted Horsemint.

Native Environment/Plant Information:

Spotted Beebalm is a clump-forming plant in the mint family. It generally grows 1 to 2 feet and has a long summer blooming period. Purplish green-brown square stems rise from a taproot. Its leaves are toothed, oblonged and up to 3” tall. Its leaves, similar to its stems, are also purplish-green. The leaves are aromatic, having a aroma similar to Greek Oregano, and can be used in teas. Spotted Beebalm flowers are quite distinct. Rosettes of hairy, yellowish, purple-spotted, tubular flowers occur in whorls along the upper half of the plant. The flowers are framed by a whorl of pinkish leafy bracts. For me flowers bloomed from July until mid-October when we got our first frost.

Spotted Beebalm prefers full sun and well-drained or dry conditions. It is typically found in dryish soils on sand prairies, savannas, rocky woodlands, and sandy areas and coastal plains.

Spotted Beebalm can be distinguished from most Monarda species by its multiple whorls of flowers on the same stem, cream-colored and purple-spotted corollas (flower’s throat) , narrow leaves, and pink to lavender bracts.

Cultural Information:

Spotted Beebalm is easiest to grow in dry to medium well-drained soils in full sun or part shade. It does best in sandy soils with consistent moisture and tolerates somewhat poor soils and drought. Spotted Bee Balm has greater tolerance of sun and drought than many other Monarda species (Bee Balms).

Spotted Beebalm can spread by stolons (runners) to form large clumps but it is not considered to be overly aggressive. Removing spent flowers will improve plant appearance and possibly prolong bloom. While individual plants may not be long-lived, a spotted beebalm planting will reseeding itself if allowed to form seed. It is usually intolerant to competition from taller plants on moist and fertile soils, but it may persist in such areas for several years.

Spotted Beebalm flowers create a unique appearance from summer to fall and makes an excellent native plant for almost any garden. It is good for Butterfly Gardens, Pollinator Garden, Nighttime Gardens, Native Plant Gardens, Drought Tolerant Gardens, Perennial Borders, Cottage Gardens, Meadows and even Herb Gardens.

Spotted Beebalm was used by Native Americans as a leaf tea for colds, fever, flu, stomach cramps, coughs. Doctors historically used it as a carminative, stimulant, digestive and diuretic. Oils it produces is high in thymol, an antiseptic that expels worms<6>. Thymol is also found in thyme. Spotted Beebalm was used by the Delaware as an infusion wash to treat skin problems. They also used an infusion of dotted horsemint to reduce fevers<5>. A tea can prepared from thoroughly dried leaves as you would for Black Tea <7>. It also makes excellent cut flowers.

Wildlife uses:

Spotted Beebalm’s flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies, and moths. Monarda genus species support the specialized bees Dufourea monardae, Perdita gerhardi, and Protandrena abdominalis. Spotted Beebalm is a host plant for the Gray Marvel Moth (Anterastria teratophora) and the Snout Moth (Pyrausta generosa, P. signatalis).

I have observed Ruby-throated Hummingbirds visiting Spotted Beebalm blooms here on Pura Vida Farm.

Spotted Beebalm is resistant to damage by Rabbits and Deer.

Useful Links and References:

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