Monarda fistulosa

Natural History, Ecological Requirements, Life Cycle

Climate: moist to semi-arid
Since the roots of the M. fistulosa do not extend into the soil very deep, it depends on regular moisture. However, the plant as a rule does not require very much moisture, and therefore inhabits drier areas of the temperate regions of N. America. The soil also must be fairly loose for the runners to creep along under the topsoil. The plant grows best where there is plenty of compost for nutrition.

Light: Full sun to light shade
M. fistulosa needs good amounts of sunshine, which shows why it grows almost exclusively on roadsides, thickets, and woodland borders.

Growth rate: Standard and invasive
Being a perennial plant, the fistulosa does not die back, adding to its invasive effect as a creeping herb. The plant spreads easily, though grows at a fairly standard rate. Blooming occurs in July and August, though specimens in the University of Georgia Herbarium bloomed in early June.

Susceptible to mildew. Also, new tests have found a phytoplasma disease that causes "leaf reddening, chlorosis, plant stunting, and phyllody of inflorescences" (Hwang 173, 1997).

One unconfirmed website claims the herb is deer resistant (Toadshade Plant Farm).

Ecosystem Dynamics: (Iowa State University prairie plants study)
"This perennial plant often grows in large colonies in hydric, mesic, and xeric prairie, as well as disturbed habitats, thickets, and along forest edges. . .."
"It is pollinated by insects, primarily bumblebees, honeybees, and wasps. The clear-wing Sphinx Moth also utilizes this plant. . .. Pollination in wild bergamot is interesting due to two major observations. First, inflorescences are composed of several clusters, each with ten or more flowers open at a time, with some flowers in the stagnate and others in the postulate phase. However, young stigmas have a delayed receptivity to accepting self-pollen. Second, bumblebees and honeybees visit staminate and pistillate phase flowers indiscriminately for nectar. Successful cross-pollination and outbidding of wild bergamot is due, at least in part, to the continuous opening of the flowers durin the day and the stigma's receptivity to cross-pollen prior to self pollen."

How to Encounter: References: Grehan (1964), Krochmal (1973), McLeod(1995), Bartgis (1993)
M. fistulosa grows on roadsides and woodland borders. It is also found in thickets, prairies, and abandoned fields and meadows (or really anywhere there is full sunlight for the larger portion of the day and semi-dry soil). Grazing of course, must be moderate. This species can stand drier conditions than the M. didyma species, attributing to the fact that M. didyma is more often grown in gardens. Bartgis reports that fistulosa (var. brevis) is one of the dominating underbrush species in cedar glade communities of the Ridge and Valley territory of northeaster West Virginia (see Distribution). Due to its color and odor, during blooming months, it can be seen being visited by butterflies, bees, wasps, and hummingbirds.

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