Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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  Prairie Folklore

by Wayne Pauly from Dane County Parks ACTION Adult Conservation Team Newsletter (All folklore stories)


Bergamot
Monarda fistulosa


Once, on a tour an older woman remembered that during the Great Depression her parents stretched the food budget using dried bergamot flowers as a pepper substitute. We all tried it right there and found it to be a potent pepper with a three second delay. People chewed a few flowers, uttered a few words about not tasting anything, interrupted by vigorous spitting as the potent pepper took effect. It was lots of fun!

Long ago I heard that native bees are divided into two groups, long tongue and short tongue. Because of the long tube leading to the nectary, only long tongue bees can pollinate bergamot. But look close at the base of those long lavender tubes, there’s a hole chewed through apparently by short tongue bees who take the nectar but don’t help with the pollinating. So next time your in the prairie watch for the thieving short tongue bees at the underside of the flower while the law abiding long tongue bees arrive on top.
 

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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