Horsemint (Monarda punctata), aka spotted beebalm, is a short-lived perennial Florida native wildflower that typically grows to be 2 feet tall and wide. It can most commonly be found in coastal plant communities on the backside of beach dunes, coastal strand, and on ruderal sites with sufficient light conditions. In the landscape it makes a great addition in informal pollinator gardens in full sun and good drainage, or in formal front yard plantings if frequently trimmed into shape. Trimming once to twice a year extends its blooming period and prevents the stems from becoming woody and lanky. Blooming occurs between late summer and early winter.
The small lavender colored flowers are especially attractive to a wide variety of native moths, bees and wasps. The photo with the wasp shows Dielis trifasciata – a parasitic wasp whose females lay their eggs primarily on the larvae (or grubs) of the scarab beetle Phyllophaga portoricensis, also called May beetle or copper beetle, that can often be found in masses in pool skimmers. A closer look at the photo reveals the pollination mechanism – the purple bract (the stabilizing leaf underneath the flower) functions as a landing strip that directs the insect to the flower. To get to the nectar the insect has to crawl deep inside the flower while the pollen-bearing anther and the stigma (the female sexual organ) that hang from the upper petal, rub on the insect’s back.