It has been a busy week in the J. Waddy Bullion Gardens in preparation for several large tour groups coming through to learn about the native flora and Native American history of the area. As I trimmed tree branches and native grasses, I noticed one special plant in the wickiup village I wanted to showcase as our plant of the week. Monarda citriodora is a fragrant purple flower classified in the mint family. Purple Horsemint, a native wildflower, has started to bloom in fields and roadsides all over Mills county. These flowers grow in large colonies, so if you see one, you will likely see more nearby. If you drive north of Goldthwaite on Highway 183, you can ‘t miss these purple beauties.
Monarda citriodora is so unique that once you learn to identify it, you will start seeing it everywhere. The lavender to pink colored flowers are arranged in a whorl that stair-steps up a single stem, the youngest buds at the top. The flowers attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Purple Horsemint has a distinctive square stem- a characteristic of plants in the mint family. Multiple stems can grow from the plant’s base and are lined with pairs of lance-shaped leaves. When the leaves are crushed they give off a lemon citrus scent, which can be used as an insect repellent to keep mosquitoes, ticks and fleas away.
Horsemint is edible and has many medicinal uses due to its high thymol content. Thymol can be used as a sedative, to calm an upset stomach, or to treat respiratory problems. Native Americans brewed horsemint leaves into a tea that help soothe sore throats and treat colds and fevers. Natives also use the leaves and flowers to season their meats, stews and salads. Purple horsemint has anti-microbial and anti-worming properties making it a valuable medicinal in the wild when fresh water and food are scarce.
Come take a look at the Purple Horsemint we have growing in the gardens. This plant would be a great addition to your summer garden. It can be grown easily from seed and needs full sunlight and well drained soil to thrive.
Republished with permission of the Goldthwaite Eagle. By Savannah Lane.