Friday, July 30, 2010

Horsemint - Monarda Punctata

I see something new every time I drive by the dry, sandy prairies along Rustic Road 107.

Today it was clumps of pale yellowish-green plants among the islands of purple Wild Monarda (fistulosa), the recent growth spurt of bluestem grasses and the bright yellow petals of the Black-eyed Susan.

Despite the rain, I couldn't resist getting out of the Prius for a closer look.

The square stem is a clue to its identity: it's a mint.

Dotted pale yellow flowers with greenish-purple bracts sat on the stem like shishkabobs.

The flowers are similar in shape to its lavender cousin - wild bergamot.   One of 16 species endemic to North America, I'd never noticed it before:  dotted horsemint (spotted beebalm), monarda punctata.  It's found throughout the eastern and central states.

Native Americans used the dried leaves to flavor meats and as a tea.  Thymol, an oil found in this plant, is one of the ingredients in mouthwashes that acts as an antiseptic.  It's also the primary ingredient in toe nail fungus treatments.

No comments:

Post a Comment