With the unusually mild winter, it appears that gardens, orchards, and fields along the East Coast are blossoming and producing earlier-than-usual crops. This includes the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Waterfront Park in front of the National Aquarium, Baltimore. Its greenery is particularly lush this year, and there are a lot of flowers and fruits for curious guests and foraging birds alike.
Bee Balm—Monarda didyma
Bee balm, or scarlet balm, is a shrub that grows on the edges or understory of forests throughout the eastern U.S. and Asia. Often used as an ornamental plant, its brilliant red chandelier-like bloom is a favorite for butterflies and hummingbirds. It also has strong medicinal properties and was relied on by Native Americans for its use as an antiseptic and a poultice for skin infections and wounds. They brewed its leaves and stems as a tea to treat mouth and throat infections, as well as gingivitis. Amazingly, bee balm is a proven natural source of the antiseptic thymol, an active ingredient in most commercial mouthwashes!
Pitcher Plants—Sarracenia purpurea
Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants often referred to as “flytraps.” The purple pitcher plant is native to Maryland and can be found in acidic bogs and marshes. Excellent for controlling pests such as flying insects, slugs, and snails, these plants use nectar and scent to lure their prey into their “pitcher death traps.”
The cylindrical “pitcher” has very smooth and slippery sides and fills with water. Insects attracted by the nectar walk into the slippery pitcher only to fall in and drown. The dead bugs are then liquefied and absorbed as food by special enzymes produced in the plant.
Pitcher plants are commonly used in herbal remedies for treating fevers and increasing fertility in women. An infusion of its roots was once used to treat smallpox.
The shadbush is laden with ripe berries, providing a much-needed source of food for both migrating and local birds.
The next time you find yourself walking in the Inner Harbor area, stop by and check out our fantastic assortment of native plants in the Waterfront Park!