Monarda clinopodia L.

Monarda clinopodia flowers
John Gwaltney

Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
Lamiaceae (Mint Family)
State Protection
Listed as Endangered by New York State: in imminent danger of extirpation in New York. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

The first New York specimen of this species was collected way back in 1867 at Niagara Falls by Edwin Hunt (1837-1880), a professor of Natural Sciences at the Utica Academy who had a herbarium of 4000 specimens that was bought by Asa Gray. (New York State Museum records). This is our only species of Monarda with white flowers but they sometimes vary to pink.

State Ranking Justification

There are 5 verified occurrences, all with low numbers, and 31 historical occurrences.

Short-term Trends

The short term trend is unknown as only two resurveys with population counts have been conducted since the 1980's. Those surveys documented a reduction in numbers to 1/3 to 1/5 the original population size.

Long-term Trends

The long term trend is apparently negative but few historical populations have been resurveyed.

Conservation and Management


Mowing and herbicide spraying along railroads threatens some populations. Loss of local ecotypes from crossbreeding with cultivated populations is also a threat.



Rich mesophytic forest in moist soils, Rich dry woods, Thicket, base of hill.Island in Niagara river Edge of a road through bottomland woods.Disturbed gully between two railroad line tracks, Bottomland woods. Tioga fine sandy loam. plunge basin in the center of a deep ravine Schrubby thickets, along main road (NYNHP 2015). Moist woods, thickets, ravines, and streambanks (Fernald 1950).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Floodplain forest* (guide)
    A hardwood forest that occurs on mineral soils on low terraces of river floodplains and river deltas. These sites are characterized by their flood regime; low areas are annually flooded in spring, and high areas are flooded irregularly.
  • Maple-basswood rich mesic forest* (guide)
    A species rich hardwood forest that typically occurs on well-drained, moist soils of circumneutral pH. Rich herbs are predominant in the ground layer and are usually correlated with calcareous bedrock, although bedrock does not have to be exposed. The dominant trees are sugar maple, basswood, and white ash.
  • Rich mesophytic forest (guide)
    A hardwood or mixed forest that resembles the mixed mesophytic forests of the Allegheny Plateau south of New York but is less diverse. It occurs on rich, fine-textured, well-drained soils that are favorable for the dominance of a wide variety of tree species. A canopy with a relatively large number of codominant trees characterizes this forest. Canopy codominants include five or more of the following species: red oak, red maple, white ash, American beech, sugar maple, black cherry, cucumber tree, and black birch.
  • Shrub swamp* (guide)
    An inland wetland dominated by tall shrubs that occurs along the shore of a lake or river, in a wet depression or valley not associated with lakes, or as a transition zone between a marsh, fen, or bog and a swamp or upland community. Shrub swamps are very common and quite variable.
  • Successional shrubland*
    A shrubland that occurs on sites that have been cleared (for farming, logging, development, etc.) or otherwise disturbed. This community has at least 50% cover of shrubs.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Acer rubrum
  • Acer saccharinum (silver maple)
  • Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
  • Carpinus caroliniana
  • Carya ovata
  • Collinsonia canadensis (stoneroot, horse-balm)
  • Geranium maculatum (wild geranium)
  • Hesperis matronalis (dame's rocket)
  • Rubus allegheniensis (common blackberry)
  • Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot)
  • Solidago
  • Trillium grandiflorum (white trillium)
  • Ulmus rubra (slippery elm)


New York State Distribution

Basil-balm is found throughout central and western New York. There is one record from Ulster County.

Global Distribution

Basil-balm occurs from Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee north and east to Indiana, New York, Vermont and Massachusetts and south to South Carolina.

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

Corolla white to ochroleucous and spotted with purple on the lower lip (rarely the corolla pink), glabrous or minutely puberulent on the abaxial suface, the upper lip without long, villous hairs; upper lip of corolla 5–8 mm long; bract blades often tinged with white (GoBotany 2015)

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

A flowering stem is required for positive identification of this species.

Similar Species

Monarda media has an unspotted red-purple corolla and bract blades tinged or suffused with purple and a much larger upper corollla lip (13-16mm). In contrast M clinopodia has a white to ochroleucous (rarely pink) corolla with a purple spotted lower lip and small upper lip 5-8 mm. M. fistulosa has a light purple (rarely purple to red-purple or white) corolla with its upper lip densely villous near its apex with hairs having pale septa vs. the upper lip abaxial surface not or only sparsely villous with hairs having red-purple septa (GoBotany 2015).

Best Time to See

Flowering typically begins in early July and continues through mid-September.

  • Flowering

The time of year you would expect to find Basilbalm flowering in New York.

Basilbalm Images


Monarda clinopodia L.

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
        • Order Lamiales
          • Family Lamiaceae (Mint Family)


  • Monarda fistulosa var. clinopodia (L.) Cooperrider

Additional Resources


Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Mitchell, Richard S. and Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New York State Plants. Contributions to a Flora of New York State. Checklist IV. Bulletin No. 490. New York State Museum. Albany, NY. 400 pp.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research University of South Florida]. New York Flora Association, Albany, New York


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: April 18, 2019

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Monarda clinopodia. Available from: Accessed June 23, 2024.