Wednesday Weed – Balm

Every Wednesday, I hope to find a new ‘weed’ to investigate. My only criterion will be that I will not have deliberately planted the subject of our inquiry. Who knows what we will find…..

Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Gentle reader, I think I am going to give up planting anything deliberately, because the plants that arrive ‘voluntarily’ are so varied and interesting. That’s my excuse, anyway. I have been waiting for this plant to flower so that I could find out what it was, but all I needed to do was gently rub a leaf between finger and thumb to inhale the delicious smell of lemon. Somehow, I have ended up with an enormous clump of Balm (also known as Lemon Balm) next to the Comfrey and the Buddleia.

Balm and Soldier Fly 002I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you that you can use Balm to flavour everything from custard to soft drinks, or that it can be used to make a tea which helps to reduce anxiety. I was interested to find out that it seemed to reduce the damage done by persistent low-level radiation when given as a tea to people who worked in a hospital radiology department. You can even use it to make wine.

As usual, I am mystified as to where the plant came from. Most free-living colonies came originally from herb beds, and I imagine that someone in the surrounding gardens was growing some Balm, and it has escaped. I am not complaining, and neither are the bees. Although the flowers are tiny, the pollinators love them, and that alone is a good reason for making some space for it.

In the photo below, we can see how a bee sees a Balm flower. The first image is in normal light, the second in ultraviolet, the third in infrared.

You can see how in the middle picture, the centre of the plant is darker, which helps to direct the bee to where the action is. Many plants would look completely different if we could see them as a bee does.

Balm and Soldier Fly 004Well, it seems that summer really has arrived. I shall have to sit in my garden chair, watch the bees, and have a glass of something cold with a few Balm leaves in it to give a delicious tang of lemon. Cheers, everyone!

1 thought on “Wednesday Weed – Balm

Leave a Reply