Next to the magnificent Cardinal Flower, the Bee Balm possesses the most intense red colouring of any of our native wild flowers. It does not flaunt its large, showy, tousled head in the bright sunshine, but elects to illuminate the cool banks of shady woodland streams and secluded nooks in moist thickets, where its beauty is reserved to surprise those who happen to snoop in such retreats. Although strikingly handsome and beautiful, it is a rather coarse perennial herb, growing two or three feet in height. The stout, rough-haired stalk is sharply four-angled or square. The thin, aromatic, sharply toothed, dark green leaves are oval, or oblong lance-shaped, with a rounded or narrowed base and a long, sharp, tapering tip. They are set on hairy stems in opposite pairs and are plainly veined. The gaping, wide-mouthed, deep scarlet, tubular flowers blossom in succeeding circles, around a large, round terminal, solitary, dark red head, into which they are gathered, and which is surrounded with a circle of bright reddish, drooping, leafy bracts. The conspicuous, funnel-formed corolla is two-lipped. The erect, slender upper lip is arched and sharp-pointed. The larger, spreading lower lip is three-lobed, with the centre one longer than the rest, and often notched at the apex. Two long, anther-bearing stamens and the pistil extend beyond the arch, and are coloured like the corolla. The smooth, incurved green calyx is slightly hairy at the throat. The Indians and early settlers of this country are said to have used this plant as a substitute for tea. An antiseptic substance useful for dressing wounds has been extracted from this species. Oswego Tea blossoms from July to September, and is found in hilly country from Georgia northward to Canada, and westward to Michigan.
OSWEGO TEA. BEE BALM. Monarda didyma.