This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flowers - Extremely variable, purplish, lavender, magenta, rose, pink, yellowish pink, or whitish, dotted; clustered in a solitary, nearly flat terminal head. Calyx tubular, narrow, 5-toothed, very hairy within. Corolla 1 to 1 1/2. in. long, tubular, 2-lipped, upper lip erect, toothed; lower lip spreading, 3-lobed, middle lobe longest; 2 anther-bearing stamens protruding; 1 pistil; the style 2-lobed. Stem: 2 to 5 ft. high, rough, branched. Leaves: Opposite, lance-shaped, saw-edged, on slender petioles, aromatic, bracts and upper leaves whitish or the color of flower.
Preferred Habitat - Open woods, thickets, dry rocky hills.
Flowering Season - June - September.
Distribution - Eastern Canada and Maine, westward to Minnesota, south to Gulf of Mexico.
Half a dozen different shades of bloom worn by this handsome, robust perennial afford an excellent illustration of the trials that beset one who would arbitrarily group flowers according to color. If the capricious blossom shows a decided preference for any shade, it is for magenta, the royal purple of the ancients, scarcely tolerated now except by Hoboken Dutch and the belles of the kitchen, whose Sunday hats are resplendent with intense effects.
Only a few bergamot flowers open at a time; the rest of the slightly rounded head, thickly set with hairy calices, looks as if it might be placed in a glass cup and make an excellent penwiper. If the cultivated human eye (and stomach) revolt at magenta, it is ever a favorite shade with butterflies. They flutter in ecstasy over the gay flowers; indeed, they are the principal visitors and benefactors, for the erect corollas, exposed organs, and level-topped heads are well adapted to their requirements. That exquisite little feathered jewel, the ruby-throated humming-bird, flashes about the bright patches an instant, and is gone; but he too has paid for his feast in transferring pollen. Insects which land anywhere they please on the flowers, receive pollen on various places, just as in the case of the scarlet Oswego tea, of similar formation. Small bees, which if unable to drain the brimming tubes of nectar, at least sip from them and help themselves to pollen also, without paying the flower's price; and certain mischievous wasps, forever bent on nipping holes in tubes they cannot honestly drain, give a score of other pilferers an opportunity to steal sweets.