Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic
Print Version (Legal Size): Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm, Oswego Tea)
The carpenter and bumble bees in this video do not have tongues long enough to gather nectar through the natural opening of the monarda corolla tubes. Instead they gain access to the nectar by piercing the base of the corolla or taking advantage of holes made by other “nectar robbers.” This allows them to bypass the floral reproductive structures and obtain their reward without providing pollination services. Although they still may pollinate the flowers if their bodies contact the anthers and stigmas during foraging, the likely pollinators of this plant are long-tongued hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies.
Video © 2018 Mary Free
This member of the Mint family, native to scattered regions of eastern North America,* grows along stream banks and in thickets and open woods. Its distinctive red flowers attract a variety of pollinators, especially hummingbirds,** and it offers herbal and medicinal benefits.
*In the Mid-Atlantic, it occurs mostly in the western and far eastern counties of PA. It is infrequent in the VA mountains and rare (maybe introduced) in the VA Piedmont. In NoVA, it is found in Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun Counties.
*** Discovered near the Blue Ridge Parkway, M. didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ is considered a natural selection of wild bee balm. In trials, ‘Jacob Cline’ “faired quite well against the dreaded powdery mildew” and was “a major hit” with hummers. [From Mt. Cuba Center Puts Nativars to the Test, 2/6/18]
Learn more about other Mid-Atlantic plants: Tried and True Plant Fact Sheets