1

ORRIN MORRIS: Bee balm appeals to large bees, hummingbirds

Psalm 103, written by King David, begins, "Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name" (v.1).

In his unique style, David instructs himself (and us, too) to remember God's benefits, His forgiveness, His fatherly compassion toward us as children, and His love that is "from everlasting to everlasting" for those who fear Him (v. 17).

The common image that the word "fear" creates is a trembling child about to be punished with a whip or a terrified hunter who has stumbled over a timber rattler poised to strike.

This is not the picture of fear that David communicates in this verse. Rather, it is an overwhelming sense of awe. It is an awe that comes from the awareness of God's holiness and one's sinfulness. This emotion of awe prompts obedience to God's commands and faithful worship that focuses on the adoration of God.

The wildflower we examine today could be said to look like an assembly of worshippers who bow in awe to celebrate the wonders of God's creation.BEE BALM

Monarda didymaBee balm is known by many names including monarda, Oswego tea, and mountain mint. Discovery of this plant has been dated back to 1742 when John Bartram visited Fort Oswego in upstate New York.

The more common name, bee balm, seems to relate to the large bees that visit it. Small bees, such as honey bees, are too small to reach down the long floral tubes for the nectar.

Of special interest are the hummingbirds who favor these blooms. The reference to mountain mint is generally attributed to several showy species of the mint family, including wild bergamot and horse mint.

The Latin term "didyma" means pairs, referring to the deep green serrated leaves that occur as opposites along the stem. The square-shaped stems are thin and hairy and range in height from 3 to 5 feet. The favorite habitats of bee balm are moist woods and stream banks.

The flower head comprises 10 to 20 scarlet red flowers that stand 1 to 2 inches tall. These flowers are two-lipped structures, as pictured.

Bee balm blooms begin appearing in July and continue until frost. The dry weather that has occurred for several years has made bee balm hard to find locally. However, it is likely that the seeds from better times have been dormant and plants will reappear next season, provided there is adequate moisture.

One last historical note of interest from the Revolutionary Era: American Indians taught colonists that this plant's leaves made a good tea that also served to treat chills and fever. After the famous Boston Tea Party, the leaves of the bee balm (and the botanical cousin bergamot) were the primary source for the afternoon tea, according to Jack Sanders' "Hedgemaids and Fairy Candles."

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. His email is odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com or call him at 770-929-3697.