Bee balm (Monarda) is a uniquely beautiful natural creation that draws bees as well as hummingbirds and butterflies to its blossoms. It is an herb in the family Lamiaceae, has a square stem, and is named after Nicolas Monardes, who first described it in 1569. Bee balm has a long history of medicinal uses by Native Americans, and is currently the natural source for thymol, an antiseptic that is the primary active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwashes, believe it or not!
The photos below are of Scarlet (or crimson, or Rasberry Wine) Bee Balm (Monarda didyma ). We have a cluster of these in the back yard, but I've decided to start more plantings in the front yard too, if only to more conveniently see the critters that visit them.
This is how the young bee balm flower starts out.
And now a view from the top of a mature bee balm flower head.
When in full bloom, I have found scarlet bee balm very difficult to photograph properly and do justice to what you see with the naked eye. It may be that all that deep red simply overpowers my camera. But I have plenty of opportunities for photos because bee balm flowers for most of the summer!
Finally, the petals begin to fall off. The shot below is of an aging bee balm flower that will hang on for a few more days yet before its reproductive cycle begins to end with the bare flower head bearing the seeds for the next generation of glorious red.
May all your days bee balm-y and colorful! :-)
Â© 2011 Gary D. Timothy
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