Wild bergamot is a perennial member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and is native to most of North America and Canada. This herbaceous plant grows best in hardiness zones 3 through 9 (Chattanooga is zone 7) and is a clump-forming or tuft type of flowering plant.
This species grows to a height of about 2 to 4 feet and a diameter of about 2 to 3 feet. It produces its lavender to pink flowers (and occasionally white) from June through September. The dense globular flower heads are found at the end of its stem. The flowers have two lips, and are tubular shaped.
The wild bergamot is often found in dry to medium moist soils, and will tolerate full sun conditions to partial shade. It will grow in nearly any type of soil, from clay to loam to sand.
This species is best used as a supply of not only cut flowers, but also dried flowers. It can be used to naturalize an area, and on the edges of a rain garden.
The leaves of this species, when crushed, are fragrant. The leaves can be used to brew a mild mint tea. Native Americans used wild bergamot medicinally in a number of ways, including as a cure for acne, menstrual pains, boils, lacerations, colds, and flu.
This species attracts both bees and butterflies.
The wild bergamot can be susceptible to mildew, which can be controlled by providing well-circulated air in any garden setting.
This plant can be propagated easily by division of the root system in the late autumn, or by sowing its dried seeds in the early spring. This plant is aggressive and can spread widely a few years after planting. It does this by underground stems. The original plant will die after a few years unless the new propagules are dug up and planted elsewhere, or are placed in a compost area to decay.This species is avoided by the white-tailed deer.
About the Author
Charlie Belin is a retired professor and biological oceanographer. He taught five courses in the University of Georgia system for many years from his home base in Savannah, Georgia.
Charlie loves hiking at Reflection Riding, teaching children about the ecology of the area, and interacting with the Reflection Riding staff. They are GREAT!
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