This member of the mint family is easily recognized as such by its square stems. Its distinctive fragrance, similar to the oil of the bergamot orange used to flavour Earl Grey tea, is its other distinguishing feature, and the reason for its common name. Fairly common throughout the prairies in sheltered places such as coulees and shrubby areas, it grows 30–75 cm tall with purple-pink flowers forming a head-like cluster at the top of the stems.
As the classic herbal tea of the prairie, many people have enjoyed this plant. The First Nations people made a tea from the blossoms for eyewash, from the leaves and blossoms for stomach pains, and from the leaves to be drunk after childbirth. Boiled leaves were also applied to acne. Another use for the dried flowers was as a potpourri. (Johnston 51) According to Hungry Wolf, the leaves were packed around sore teeth. (23)
Growth habit and range: This is an erect perennial herb which is somewhat common on moist hillsides and shady places in the southern half of the province. It grows to a height of 60–100 cm.
Description: This plant is part of the mint family and as such has a strong, spicy fragrance. The leaves are grey-green, hairy, oval to lanceolate in shape, 2–10 cm in length, and are opposite on the squarish stems. Flowering occurs from June to September. The 3–6 cm in diameter, rose-purple flowers are held at the stem tips and are comprised of numerous, irregularly shaped, tubular florets. The fruit is a cluster of 4 smooth, brownish, 2 mm long nutlets, each of which contains a single seed.
Johnston, Alex. 1987. Plants and the Blackfoot. Occasional Paper No. 15., Lethbridge Historical Society, AB.