True Bergamot is Citrus bergamia and is a hybrid of the bitter orange and lemon plants. Wild bergamot, as it is found in Illinois, is a member of the mint family and is commonly identified by tall, erect stems with opposite leaf arrangement featuring a square cross section. Each lavender-colored bloom is comprised of many smaller individual flowers that are prized by bees, flies, butterflies, moths, and many other pollinators. Considering all this information, it is easy to see how the plant got its name. Wild bergamot leaves, when bruised or crushed, produce a bergamot-like odor that wafts across the prairies during summer.
This plant is commonly found in both prairie and wetland buffer settings where it is often used in restoration and stormwater improvement projects. Known for its semi-aggressive growth habit, this plant has no issue outcompeting some of the more problematic prairie invaders. One downside to this plant is that it is highly susceptible to powdery mildew, a fungus that appears on the leaves and stems. This dusty coating that does not necessarily harm the plant but is not the most pleasing to see in your garden.
With vigorous growth, an attractive bloom and foliage, fragrance, and benefits to pollinators, it is no wonder this plant has been seen more often in landscape settings as native plants grow in popularity.