Motherwort as a bee forage plant
Whenever I visit my friends in Oregon, I return home with new ideas for my pollinator garden. Of course, Naomi and Larry Price live on the high desert and I live on the edge of a rain forest, so our climates are like night and day. Still, they water their gardens and I tuck some of my plants under the eaves, so we have many crossover species.
Many of the mints are pollinator wonders, yet they are very tolerant of the subtle distinctions between deserts and rain forests. I love them. This year I saw motherwort for the first time, and I enjoyed seeing all the pollinators head-butting each other off the small, hairy flowers. Motherwort is a mint family plant called Leonurus cardiaca.
What’s a wort?
Oddly enough, just before my visit I had been asking around about worts. What makes a wort a wort? Apparently, the word just means “plant” and the name was applied widely by herbalists. A plant might be named because of its attributes, the way it was used, or the body part it resembles. Apparently figwort plants were used to treat hemorrhoids and hemorrhoids resemble figs. That’s weird, right?
Honeywort produces scads of nectar, so that makes more sense to me. Then there’s bladderwort and bruisewort which are self-explanatory. Burstwort was used for treating ruptures. Anyway, you get the idea. Wikipedia has a list of wort plants that is fun to scroll through. I don’t know how many are listed, but there’s a bunch.
Motherwort as a bee plant
At any rate, motherwort is an introduced plant that has spread over most of the US. It can be a weed or a planting, depending on your mindset. It likes pastures, open fields, roadsides, and disturbed areas. Like many mints, it’s at home nearly anywhere.
The plants are drought tolerant but can grow to six feet tall if they have plenty of water. Flowers begin appearing in May and, depending on the climate, can continue blooming until November. The flowers are very hairy, and they can range from white to pink to purple.
Bees seem to love the plant and it can produce a good crop of honey, especially in areas with a long growing season. In other words, not here. The honey produced is a light pale yellow with a mild flavor.
It can be invasive
Gardeners should be aware that, like most mints, motherwort can be invasive. So, depending on your area and your purpose, you may want to keep it in check. Still, if bee forage is what you’re after, it could be right for you.
Still, I wonder what the purpose of motherwort was. How did you use it on mother? Or maybe it was to protect one from motherhood or to promote motherhood? Or cure one of motherhood. Who knows?
Honey Bee Suite