Bergamot, Lemon (Monarda citriodora)

lemon-bergamotAn annual herb reaching 60-90cm. The leaves are deliciously lemon-scented. The flowers and decorative bracts are colored outrageously purple, blooming May to August, and occurring in multiple dense whorls on the square stems, attracting butterflies, hummingbirds and herbalists to a garden. Sometimes described as being like oregano, especially later in the season on older leaves. The plant forms a clump with several stems growing out from the center. Whorls of white, pink or purple flowers are arranged around the thin stems.

Native to Midwest America, this genus takes its name after Nicolás Bautista Monardes (1493-1588) a physician and botanist from Seville in Spain. Monardes wrote extensively in the 16th century about New World medicinal plants and is considered one of the founders of experimental pharmacology.

Monardes wrote the first account of many of the new plants discovered in America at the time. Although he never visited the New World himself, Monardes established a botanical garden in Seville where he cultivated specimens and studied the effects of medicinal plants imported from the Americas. He published his ‘Two books…about the Drugs from the West Indies used in Medicine’ in 1565, and it included the first illustrations of coca, tobacco and sunflowers, as well as many other plants. It is known that Monardes also believed that tobacco smoke was an infallible cure for everything.

The species name comes from Latin citrus and odoro meaning to “give a fragrant smell”.

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