Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

More from Huffman Prairie

with 36 comments

At Dayton’s Huffman Prairie on July 21st I found colonies of wild bergamot, Monarda fistulosa.
The USDA map shows it growing in all of the lower 48 states except California and Florida.
(When Steve Gingold mentioned this species in June I’d never knowingly seen any. A month later I had.)

I also saw two kinds of yellow composites that I wasn’t familiar with. Daniel Boone at the
Cincinnati Wildflower Preservation Society identified them for me as wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia,

and prairie dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum. Notice the echinacea in the background.

The kind of dark beetle that I saw on another prairie dock might have been the nibbler of the ray flowers.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 25, 2019 at 4:47 AM

36 Responses

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  1. An Illinois gardener I know posted some views of his monarda recently: both cultivars and this native that you’ve shown. He mentioned that wild bergamot is an ingredient in Earl Gray tea.

    I wonder if Daniel Boone’s name influenced his career choice? I’ve never seen anything quite like the wingstem, but the shininess of their petals reminds me of buttercups. I suspected a Silphium species when I saw those buds; it was great fun to discover that I had the right genus.


    August 25, 2019 at 6:14 AM

    • Like you, I wondered about associations and reactions that the name Daniel Boone calls up—at least in people (and there used to be a lot more of them) who know about that historical figure. The full first name in the native plant Boone’s e-mail reply surprised me because I’d found him listed as Dan Boone on the Cincinnati Wildflower Preservation Society website. And speaking of his famous predecessor, in one of the many museums we visited on our trip we saw George Caleb Bingham’s painting “Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap”:


      The one kind of common tea that my tastebuds don’t react favorably to is Earl Gray, precisely because of the bergamot in it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 25, 2019 at 6:39 AM

      • I’ve been to the Kemper Museum in Kansas City. It seems from the information I found that the same Kemper family was involved in both museums.


        August 25, 2019 at 7:19 AM

        • It doesn’t surprise me that a wealthy family would be involved in both museums.

          Presumably the Mildred Lane Kemper Museum had loaned out “Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap” to whichever museum we saw it in.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 25, 2019 at 7:27 AM

  2. I drink Earl Gray sometimes, kind of an acquired taste, but nice and head-clearing during the winter. My grandmother used to mention bee balm tea, too, but I don’t remember ever trying it.

    Robert Parker

    August 25, 2019 at 8:08 AM

    • Other teas, for example lapsang souchong, may also be acquired tastes, but my taste buds gladly acquired it—unlike with Earl Gray. Oh well, as I’ve said so many times: Chacun à son goût, Each to his own goo.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 25, 2019 at 8:24 AM

      • I got some Wuyi tea last year, I think that’s a type of lapsang souchong, because that’s the kind they imported in colonial days (as “Bohea” tea) and I was curious. It took a little time to appreciate the smoky taste, but it’s good. Usually I stick to green or oolong. “Each to his own goo” is a handy slogan! 🙂

        Robert Parker

        August 25, 2019 at 8:38 AM

        • I’ve not heard of (and therefore haven’t tasted) Wuyi tea but I looked it up:


          The article says that, surprising to us, the name Bohea was based on the local Fujianese pronunciation of Wuyi.

          Better “Each to his own goo” than “Each to his own gout,” right? You prompted me to look up the etymology of goo and I found from the American Heritage Dictionary that the word might have been shortened from burgoo. I’d never heard of that, which in New England was ‘any of several thick stews, originally an oatmeal porridge.’ Naturally I pursued the origin of the name burgoo and found it might have been an alteration of ragout, which does indeed contain the gout that means ‘taste.’ How’s that for a nicely stirred pot of etymological tea?

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 25, 2019 at 8:53 AM

  3. It was a great year for monada here, both the native and the cultivated. Your photos could easily have been from here. They are beautiful shots of prairie plants. We get wingstem here but it isn’t as common.


    August 25, 2019 at 8:12 AM

    • I just checked the map and found that the straight-line distance from Dayton to your area is under 300 miles, so the two places share various species. Similarly, I noticed that by the time we made our way back toward Texas from New York as far as the Gulf coast of Alabama, we were beginning to see species we recognized from home.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 25, 2019 at 8:30 AM

  4. As you stated that the wild bergamot flowers grow in most of the continental USA, I wonder if they also grow in some parts of Canada as well. I will be looking for them.

    Peter Klopp

    August 25, 2019 at 8:46 AM

  5. Anything else you’d like to see that I can mention? Silliness by me.

    What’s funny is that after planting the cultivated species seen in that post, the wild species came to visit and stayed around.

    Steve Gingold

    August 26, 2019 at 5:59 AM

    • Sure, mention as many good things as you wish. I’ll take them as foreshadowings of sightings.

      As far as I can tell, you never showed any pictures of the native species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2019 at 6:09 AM

      • Not as of yet. Ours are winding down and may not be photogenic.

        Steve Gingold

        August 26, 2019 at 6:13 AM

        • Well, there’s always 2020. And maybe you’ll still get some good pictures showing the seed heads or later the “ruins” that 2019’s crop leaves standing.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 26, 2019 at 6:24 AM

          • Yes, there is that. I did the one in the post your linked. but am sure I can find another way to go about it. You’ve inspired me to make sure I shoot the blooms next year. Sometimes, with the flowers in our yard, I treat them like the cobbler’s kids.

            Steve Gingold

            August 26, 2019 at 7:29 AM

  6. I grow this wild bergamot in my garden for tea and to attract the bees. Your last photo is a very complimentary color study; quite lovely. And, funnily enough, my grandfather was named Daniel Boone Beverly. He was from Kentucky. Is your friend a Kentuckian too? In my experience they seem to come from there. 🙂


    August 26, 2019 at 7:03 AM

    • Then this is indeed a familiar species for you, unlike for me.

      I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything about the Daniel Boone who identified the other two species for me. I found his e-mail address on the website of the Cincinnati Wildflower Preservation Society and wrote to him. It wouldn’t surprise me if his parents or earlier ancestors were from Kentucky.

      Our contact with Kentucky on this trip was driving north across it to get to Cincinnati, and the next morning spending a little time in Covington, on the south bank of the Ohio River, to check out the Roebling Bridge and the historical murals near the shore on the Kentucky side:


      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2019 at 7:19 AM

  7. Thank you, Steve, and Steve, for identifying the Wild Bergamot. I had seen it a few times, but had not got around to looking it up.


    August 26, 2019 at 4:32 PM

    • Then on behalf of us both, you’re welcome. The USDA map shows wild bergamot a few counties east of Austin and a few counties west of Austin but I’ve never knowingly seen it anywhere in Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2019 at 5:09 PM

  8. That is quite a variety in one location. I have to ask – was he any relation??


    August 27, 2019 at 5:53 PM

  9. Does the foliage of wild bergamot smell like the ‘Bergamot’ orange? I suppose that our only garden variety of Monarda sort of does. ‘Bergamot’ is rather icky.


    August 29, 2019 at 8:56 AM

    • I’ll have to plead ignorance. I stayed at the prairie only a short while and took my pictures but didn’t examine the plants. If it were a species that also grows in Austin I might find out the next time I saw it. As it doesn’t grow here, that possibility is out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 29, 2019 at 12:38 PM

      • Well, I don’t know either. I used to grow citrus, including two bitter oranges and a sour orange, but have found that even the ‘Bergamot’ does not smell much like bergamot.


        September 1, 2019 at 9:47 AM

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