The genus Monarda belongs to the mint family. It has fragrant leaves and showy flowers; it has antiseptic properties.
A significant characteristic of Monarda is its square stem. This is a general characteristic of plants that belong to the mint family.
Monarda didyma, as well as other Monarda species, have opposite leaves. This is another general characteristic of the mint family. It is a long time since I have seen a beebalm plant, but according to a picture in my possession, the shape of the leaves of Monarda didyma vary. Many are ovate in form with a serrated margin and a pointed tip.
Plants of the mint family usually have a pleasant odor, and Monarda is no exception. Its leaves are fragrant when crushed.
The inflorescence is terminal. According to “Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia,” the flowers of Monarda didyma are “clustered in whorls at top of stem,” and they “grow in two or more tiers,” and the “whole head rests on a collar of red-tinged bracts.”
According to Floridata and other sources, the individual flowers are tubular and terminate in an upper and lower lip. The lower lip has three lobes. Stamens stick out of the flower close to the upper lip.
Monarda spreads quickly and is sometimes considered invasive. I used to see a lot of them growing in the grass alongside highways in Wisconsin. The flowers were light blue, so they would not be the ordinary variety of Monarda didyma, which has red flowers, as mentioned above.
Monarda is often used as an ornamental. Various varieties of Monarda didyma have been developed for this purpose.
Both the leaves and the flowers are good to eat. The flowers lend color and taste to salads. The use of the leaves to make tea has already been noted.
Poultices of Monarda leaves have been used to treat wounds and skin infections. An active ingredient is thymol, which is currently used as an ingredient in mouthwash.
“Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs”; Claire Kowalchik and William Hylton, editors
University of Texas at Austin: Monarda didyma L.
Floridata: Monarda didyma
Illinois Wild Flowers: Wild Bergamot
Royal Horticultural Society: Monarda didyma
Missouri Botanical Garden: Monarda didyma
Plants for a Future: Monarda didyma L.
Wikipedia: Monarda didyma