The rainy season has begun in earnest here in Florida. Daily afternoon or evening rains are almost guaranteed, and some days are rainy all the way through. The saturated humid air is a little tough on gardeners, especially as the weeds couldn't be happier, but the grey light of overcast days highlights parts of the garden in an almost magical way. For instance, the Dotted Horsemint we planted back in June has finally begin to bloom. The muted and fascinating flowers of this native plant seem to fit the quiet mood of a misty My Florida Backyard.
Dotted Horsemint (Monarda punctata) is a member of the same genus as the more commonly known Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), a popular plant with butterfly gardeners. Dotted Horsemint holds the same attraction for butterflies, but is better adapted to Florida's wet summers - Bee Balm is very susceptible to powdery mildew, and Florida's rainforest climate in the summer months makes it difficult to cultivate successfully. Dotted Horsemint is a good alternative in a Florida native garden.
Although it's commonly called "horsemint" and is indeed a member of the mint family (Lamiacaea), this plant's leaves actually smell like oregano when crushed, and some people use it as a substitute. Native Americans brewed it into tea to treat colds and flu. But for us, the best feature is the enchanting little dotted flower blooms, so strange and unexpected. The delicate colors of the leaves beneath almost glow in the soft light of a clouded afternoon. We feel so fortunate to have this native treasure add its magic to My Florida Backyard.