Species Spotlight – Monarda clinopodia
Today’s spotlight is an undescribed Monarda species that keys out to Monarda clinopodia but whose morphology and preferred habitat differ dramatically. This Monarda grows in much drier locations, typically on the tops of slopes or embankments and even shale barren areas. The plant is short, about 12-18″ tall, and sports up to three flower heads. The straight species of Monarda clinopodia grows in moist ditches with loamy soil, grows up to 36″ tall, and sports just one flower per stem. The new Monarda is also highly stoloniferous, unlike the straight species, and is more adaptable than the straight species. Monarda clinopodia is generally difficult to find as its preferred soil conditions are disappearing; the largest stand that we know of is on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Initially found in West Virginia, we have located small but rapidly expanding populations in Virginia and Pennsylvania. This is a plant to watch. Please let us know if you think you have spotted this plant. Note in the picture above that the flowers are no taller than the whorls on Virginia Creeper, is growing in a nice sized colony, and has Pennsylvania sedge as another associate; this should give you a good sense of how different this plant is and what you can expect to see if you think you find it.