Polk County’s Most Wanted—Plant

Published 11:36 am Tuesday, July 22, 2014


In a joint effort to expand the knowledge and understanding of the flora and fauna of Polk County, the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC) and David Campbell need your help in locating this month’s “Most Wanted-Plant,” the flowering plant known as Spotted Bee Balm, in particular, a variety of this species known as Monarda punctata var. arkansana. This variety of Spotted Bee Balm, also known as Arkansas Horse-mint, differs from the usual form in the number and placement of hairs on the plant.
As is apparent from the scientific name, this is a variety of Spotted Bee Balm that is typically found in the Ozarks. Like several of Polk County’s special plants, there is a consistent “Ozarkian connection.”
This variation of Spotted Bee Balm prefers to grow in dryish forest habitats and areas that are open, sunny, and well drained. A member of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae), Spotted Bee Balm has aromatic leaves and flowers and square stems. The flowers are a beautiful blending of purples and yellows. As mentioned above, this variety of Spotted Bee Balm differs from the usual form in the number and placement of hairs on the plant. The stems have many coarse horizontal bristles and fine, short, downwardly-curved hairs. The leaves are typically 50-70 mm long and 10-28 mm wide (approximately three times as long as wide).
This plant has botanists a bit puzzled – so far, Monarda punctata var. arkansana has only been found around the Town of Columbus in Polk County (in NC at least). This is not to suggest that the plant could not be found elsewhere in the county, but residents in the Columbus area, in particular, are asked to keep their eyes open for this Ozarkian beauty during the months of July and August.

If you think that you have seen this species, or know where it might be located, please contact PAC at 828-859-5060, or e-mail comments, questions, or photos to, landprotection@pacolet.org.
The purpose of this project is to gain a better understanding of the flora and fauna in Polk County and document the species present in the county.
PAC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit conservation organization (land trust) founded in 1989 to protect and conserve the area’s natural resources (PAC’s mission). PAC works with area landowners to ensure the long-term protection of their property through voluntary conservation easements (agreements) which enable landowners to maintain ownership of their property, preserving precious natural resources (open lands, forests, wildlife habitat, scenic vistas, farmland, stream banks, etc.), and potentially obtain significant federal, state, and local tax benefits. PACs vision is a community living and growing in harmony with our natural resources and or goal is to provide a legacy that will endure and be valued by generations to come.
PAC works diligently to provide leadership to encourage conservation and provide education programs emphasizing native species appreciation and responsible land use practices to help – save the places you love.
– article submitted by Pam Torlina

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