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The showy red flowers of Bee Balm are quite distinctive. While in the Northeast this species is considered an attractive and desirable wildflower, ecologists in Illinois regard it as a weed because it isn't native to the state. Bee Balm is one of several Monarda spp. that occur in Illinois, but it is the only one with bright red flowers. Compared to the native Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot), the flowers of Bee Balm are slightly larger and less hairy along the outer surface of the upper lip of their corollas. The leaves of Bee Balm are usually a darker shade of green and they are slightly broader than those of Wild Bergamot. Another common name for Monarda didyma is Oswego Tea, which refers to the medicinal use of its leaves by an Amerindian tribe of the same name.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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