Monarda’s are an unusual plant, always stunning in pictures, some even manage to pull it off in the flesh, for which we adore their showy pom-pom like rich flowering bracts. Often they sit trying thier best, in our climate not to be blighted by mildew and look generally miserable with one or two weak flowering spikes. At the nursery I have in equal measure a stunning looking M. Beauty of Cobham and very sorry for its self M. citirodora. Monarda’s are named after Nicolas bautista Monardes.
His works included Dialogo llamado pharmacodilosis (1536) amongst roughly seven others with the most well known Historia medicinal de las cosas que se traen de naestras, or translated into the rather historically joyful, ‘Medical study of the products imported from our West Indian possessions’. Published first in 1665, and enlarged over 3 further editions in 1569, 1774 and 1580. Monardes was a botanist and physician who was extremely well known at the time, his survey of medical plants was printed in English in 1577, 1580, and 1925 where is names was changed to ‘Joyful News out of the New Found World’
Information about the chap is scarce but whats more interesting to me is the sense of adventure such works spark in the mind. Its easy to forget the extreme conditions the explores would have encountered on their trips to new lands, the plants they brought back would have been very exciting, think only of plants such as Dahlia brought back firstly as a possible edible crop, just like Funkia, what a lovely named plant better known to us now as Hosta which was also originally brought to Europe as a vegetable which can be steamed and eaten in a similar way to Spinach.
Imagine the long sea voyages, and the untouched, virgin landscapes, awaiting the somewhat sea weary, free of sight of modern conveniences they must have been filled with a mixture of trepidation, excitement and bewilderment all at once. Its no wonder so many of these travellers returned to inspire great social change across the face of Europe in the 1700’s.