Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Bastard Balm

Every garden has one or two tough spots, and one of ours sits and the junction of a sidewalk and driveway, where it is shady all day, but with a shot of late afternoon direct sun, but an area that is often quite dry.  Most plants that do well in dry places also do well in full sun as the two are usually related, but this spot is too shady for such plants and this is known because many have tried (to grow there) and many have failed.  So it was that while seeking something new, the Phactor happened upon bastard balm and noted a suggestion that it might do OK in a dry semi-shady spot.  As it turns out, it does grow, quite handsomely in this very tough spot forming an biggish (40-50 cm tall) clump of lush foliage and with a very impressive floral display as well, some of the biggest of mint flowers.  And it's better behaved that most mints.  What's not to like?
The common name is a bit strange, bastard balm.  What is illegitimate about this balm?  Here the Phactor offers a guess.  The species name is Melittis melissophyllum.  The genus is derived from the Greek for bee, and bees do like it,  and the specific epithet means leaves like Melissa, another mint genus whose name is also derived from the Greek for honeybee, in other words the "bee balm".  Melittis then becomes the illegitimate balm by looking like the real thing. Anybody got a better story?   

1 comment:

Jacquelineand.... said...

Thanks for solving an incipient planting conundrum; this will make an excellent replacement for scraggly evergreens which were poorly placed by the former homeowners.