Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) is yet another perennial herb in the mint family (Labiatae). This frost hardy, drought tolerant plant grows well with average watering, dappled shade in Davis, and reaches up to about three feet. It is a perennial herb native to southern climates of Europe and North America, whose leaves have a strong lemon scent when crushed or bruised. The white or pink scented flowers are hermaphroditic, pollinated by bees, and typically appear throughout the heat of summer and early fall. Though lemon balms seen in Davis don't seem too selective about soil type and soil moisture as long as it's not boggy, this plant's preference is well-drained sandy- to loamy-soil and it does extremely well in dappled shade. Lemon balm is easily propagated by division, so share the love! Besides, these plants can self-sow freely enough to become a nuisance, so you'll be doing yourself a favor as well. Cut back the plant hard after flowering to produce a fresh flush of leaves.
Lemon balm is edible and can be used in tea, as a salad accent, in cooked foods, and even ice cream! Lemon balm has been used as a flavoring in various alcoholic beverages including chartreuse and benedictine. For a nicely flavored sugar, add a few leaves to your sugar jar for a week or so. It's purported medicinal properties include antibacterial, antispasmodic, antiviral, digestive and sedative. As an herbal tonic, it has been said to "raise the spirits and lift the heart;" the plants citral- and citronella-containing essential oils calm the central nervous system and are strongly antispasmodic. Modern research has found that it can help significantly in the treatment of cold sores. The live plant is said to repel flies and ants while simultaneously attracting bees. The leaves can be rubbed on the skin as a repellent, though the essential oil is more effective.
For a list of other plants found growing within Davis, please visit our Town Flora page.
...in fact the genus name, Melissa, comes from the Greek word meaning "bee." Can whoever made this claim, look it up? The Genus and Species of Honeybees are Apis Mellifera... neither is Melissa. -KarlMogel
Apis comes from the Latin word for bee. Melissa is from the Greek word μέλισσα.