What’s So Special About Bee Balm?

I have childhood memories of ugly red bee balm plants surrounding a maple tree in our front yard. In addition to being ugly, what really bothered me about this flower was the smell. The scent tickled my nose in an unpleasant manner and gave me an instant headache.

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And then I grew up. Well, I suppose that’s questionable, but what did happen is I came to appreciate the showy flower and aromatic scent. (Funny thing is, an infusion of crushed, boiled bee balm flowers apparently treats headaches–I should have used it to treat the very symptom it caused. It has many other medicinal uses as well.)

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This summer, like others, I waited in anticipation.

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Even before it bloomed, its leafy bracts showcased a fluid beauty.

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And those leaves set at right angles to the square stem offered a crossroads where color and texture met.

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Finally . . .

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with the aid of raindrops

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and sunshine, the bracts pulled away and revealed star-capped tubes nestled within.

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Ever so slowly, flowers began to emerge.

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With a hat reminiscent of a jester, they crowned the plant.

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Stamens projected from the tubular upper lip, while below, three slender lips provided a landing pad for visiting insects seeking nectar-filled sweetness.

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Like me, the pollinators’ eyes shone brightly

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as they sought

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fulfillment.

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I’ve spent many moments starring–in awe and wonder–at the structure, simple yet complex, and all of its idiosyncrasies.

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And I know I’m not the only female who stops by to soak in the glory of this old-fashioned perennial.

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What’s so special about bee balm? Everything.

P.S. This one is for you, Jinny Mae, because you, too, are special.