ORRIN MORRIS: Bergamot used for treatment of fever, bronchial infection, acne

The prophet Isaiah foretold of the beauty that awaited the Hebrew exiles when they returned from captivity. He compared their restoration to the blooming of the desert.

He wrote, "The wilderness and the desert will be glad,... and blossom. Like the crocus, it will blossom profusely and rejoice with shouts of joy... They will see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God (Isaiah 35:1-2)."

Let us compare two wildflower cousins that look like twins, but their habitats differ greatly. The species pictured today thrives during drought while the other would wither away. Last week we featured the cousin, the bee balm.WILD BERGAMOT

Monarda fistulosaWild bergamot is also known as Monarda and, for many reasons, often mistaken for bee balm (Monarda didyma). Common features of both plants, present throughout the U.S., include thin rigid hairy stems and serrated leaves of similar size and shape.

Both have deep green leaves that are affixed as pairs opposite one another up a stem that may be 2 to 3 feet tall. Both have flower heads composed of two-lipped blooms that stand aright.

The flowers of both plants' colors are in the reddish range; however, the bee balm blooms are bright red while the bergamot blooms range from light pink (nearly white) to a pinkish-lavender.

The quick and easy way to tell the two plants apart is by habitat. The bergamot prefers dry sandy soils while the bee balm requires moist soil.

The flower head is another way to tell the two cousins apart. The greenish bracts under the flower head are upright and cupped for the bee balm but they flare out and downward for the bergamot, thus creating a cluttered and enlarged effect.

There are several other minor differences. Bee balm has a square-shaped stem while the bergamot has a rectangular stem. Bergamot starts blooming in June while bee balm starts in July, but both bloom through September.

These two members of the Mint family were named after Nicholas Monardes, a Spanish physician who published a book on the medicinal values of plants in the New World.

Wild bergamot was also called Oswego tea, and used as a treatment for chills and fevers. Other Indian tribes used tea from the leaves for headaches, sore throat, bronchial infection, acne, and to soothe bug bites, 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.