A crisply erect, square-sided, stem with velvety, opposite leaves and a mass of pale orchid-lavender blooms at. the top means wild bergamot. Perhaps it is a weed. Its growth has that sturdy, unconquered vigor which is associated with weeds. Yet in its own haunts along fences and dusty roadsides, it is not truly a weed, but a native wild flower with both charm and beauty.
Monarda fistulosa L.
July - August Roadsides, uplands.
The roadside flowers have a very special place in the picture of the open country. They are remnants of the greater horde which, before the days of steel plows and farms and highways, were massed in a tremendous burst of color which stretched for miles across Illinois. These today are only a few; but in themselves they are enough to tell a tale of early autumn. The coloring and pattern of the bergamot flowers is contrasted with the fluffy white tops of thoroughwort and mountain mint, with heath asters and wreath asters and the spires of vervain, with the royal purple of ironweed, and the hosts of sunflowers, large and small. These make even dusty roadsides beautiful.
The bergamot flowers are arranged in a round head at the top of the stalk and in each flower as it opens there are two stamens which stand tall. By the day after, the pollen is nearly all shed and the stigma, the top of the pistil, has appeared. A few hours later the shrunken anthers have fallen forward and the two stigma tips occupy the same place, ready to receive pollen brought by visiting insects. It is an arrangement which prevents self-pollination in the bergamot.