Crooked Run Valley
spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata)
spotted bee balm
SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS: There are no scientific synonyms for Monarda punctata.
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for spotted beebalm is Monarda punctata L.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: Spotted beebalm is short-lived perennial,1-3' tall, un-branched or sparingly branched, except for short leafy stems that develop from the axils of the leaves along the central stem. The central stem is brown to reddish purple, 4-angled, and densely pubescent.
Leaves:The opposite leaves are up to 3½" long and 1" across, medium green, and lanceolate to narrowly lanceolate. The margins of the leaves are usually serrated with low teeth, although some of the upper leaves (and bracts) have smooth margins.
Flowers: The central stem produces two or more dense whorls of flowers in the upper portion of each plant. The uppermost whorl of flowers is terminal, while the lower whorls of flowers develop from the axils of the upper pairs of leaves. Each flower is about ¾–1" long, consisting of a cream-colored corolla with purple spots and a tubular calyx with 5 triangular teeth. The corolla is divided into an upper lip and a lower lip; they are both long and narrow. The upper lip is keeled and finely hairy on the top, while the lower lip terminates into 3 small lobes (the middle lobe is the largest of the three). Inside the corolla near the upper lip, there are 2 long stamens with brown anthers and a slender style with a divided tip. There are also 2 short stamens that are sterile. The tubular calyx is green and finely pubescent. Underneath each whorl of flowers, there are several leafy bracts. The upper surface of each bract is pink, lavender, or nearly white (in whole or part). The lower surface of each bract is light green. Aside from their showy colors and location underneath the flowers, these bracts are very similar to the leaves.
Fruits/Seeds: Each flower is replaced by 4 small nutlets, which are ovoid and smooth.
Roots: The root system consists of a taproot.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Spotted beebalm propogates itself by reseeding.
HABITAT TYPES: Habitats typically include dryish soils on prairies, sandy areas and coastal plains.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Basal beebalm prefers full sun to part shade on a well-drained sandy soil with some moisture retentive capability. Best in sandy soils with consistent moisture. However, basal beebalm is hardy enough to tolerate moderately poor soils and drought.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from mid-summer to early fall and lasts about 1-2 months.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Spotted beebalm naturally occurs throughout most of the eastern United States (except portions of northern New England and West Virginia), and extends west to Texas and New Mexico in the South, and to Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
It does not naturally occur in much of the Prairie, Rocky Mountain, far western, and Pacific Coast states (except California). It occurs in Ontario and Quebec provinces of Canada.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract honeybees, bumblebees, miner bees (Melissodes spp.), and plasterer bees (Colletes spp.); butterflies also visit the flowers of spotted bee-balm for nectar, including the endangered Lycaenides melissa samuelis (Karner blue), which is found in sandy habitats. Insects that feed on the flowers, foliage or stems of spotted beebalm include the caterpillars of the moths Pyrausta orphisalis (pyralid moth sp.), Pyrausta signatalis (pyralid moth sp.), and Agripodes teratophora (the gray marvel); the adults of Strigoderma arboricola (false Japanese beetle, or sandhill chafer); and both nymphs and adults of Cydnoides ciliata (negro bug sp.) and Sehirus cinctus (white-margined burrower bug). Mammalian herbivores do not find the the oregano-scented foliage appealing and rarely consume it.
Spotted beebalm was used by the Meskwaki to treat colds and catarrh in a mixture with the leaves of Ranunculus delphinifolius and the disk florets of Helenium autumnale. This plant, along with other plants were ground into a powder and snuffed up the nostrils to relieve a sick headache. Taken with the roots of Asarum canadense, Euphorbia corollata, and Brauneria angustifolia these plants relieved stomach cramps. The Delaware washed patients' faces with an infusion of spotted beebalm to treat skin problems. They also used an infusion of spotted beebalm to reduce fevers. The Mohegan made an infusion of the plant to reduce fevers as well.The Nanticoke used an infusion of the entire plant to treat colds. The Navajo hung the plant in the hogan for its pleasing odor.
Native Americans made a tea from the leaves of spotted beebalm to treat flu, colds and fever. It increases sweating. Essential oils from spotted beebalm are high in thymol, which is an effective fungicide and bactericide and also used to expel hookworms. Today thymol is manufactured synthetically.