Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Bee-balm -- © Dave Spier

I’ve discovered a "new" bird species – the yellow-crowned hummingbird. Okay, before the birding community gets too excited, it was just a ruby-throat with pollen on top of its head. While visiting our Bee-balm flowers, the bird’s head was brushing against the stamens and being dusted with yellow grains of pollen. Unwittingly, the hummer would carry this to the next flower where some would reach the pistil (female part of the flower), thus assuring cross-pollination. Isn’t nature clever? By the time I got my camera, the pollen had rubbed or blown off.

Bee-balm (Monarda didyma), also called Oswego Tea, is a bright-scarlet member of the mint family. Related to bergamots, the showy flowers grow in dense whorls at the top of a square stem with opposite pairs of pointed leaves. The leafy bracts under the flower head are also reddish. This native plant grows wild on rich, moist soil, often along wooded stream banks, but it has been tamed for garden use. It’s a favorite nectar source for hummingbirds.

You can make an aromatic tea by steeping fresh or dried leaves and flowers for 10 minutes, or you can mix it with other teas. Enjoy…

If you live or travel in the vicinity of Savannah, NY (southeastern Wayne County), stop at the Montezuma Audubon Center (on the west side of Route 89 about 1.7 miles north of the village) and see how the hummingbird/butterfly garden is doing. The Bee-balm is on the east end of the garden. There’s usually a hummingbird feeder hanging on the wooden fence that hides the propane tank behind the garden. From one of the picnic tables, you can watch both the garden and all of the feeders on the north side of the building.

Do you plant any native flowers for hummingbirds or butterflies? To find out what else we can do to help wildlife, visit Wild Ones or contact me at northeastnaturalist@yahoo.com If you're in central New York, there's a chapter at http://www.hgcny.org/

Photo notes: Canon 300mm/f4 on 8-mp XT body; exposure = 1/500 sec., f/5.6, ISO 400. Our Bee-balm just started blossoming this year, so I pulled a file photo taken July 5 at 3:44 pm in the afternoon when our garden is still in full sunlight.  Original cropped to 1923 x 1354, then resized for the blog.

1 comment:

Paula Kuitenbrouwer said...

Nice read...I've learned hummingbirds are helpful with pollination too. Thanks!