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Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Lamiaceae (Dead-nettle)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
70 centimetres tall
Hedgerows, mountains, rocky places, scrub, woodland.

White, 5 petals
Whorls of white flowers with the lower lip being mainly pink. Flowers each measure up to 4cm in size. Pollinated by bees and moths.
The fruits are nutlets.
The crinkled, hairy leaves vary in shape and colour, measuring from 5 to 9cm in length. They are generally oval and pointed. Perennial.
Bastard Balm is a strongly fragrant species.
Other Names:
The Bumblebee Orchid.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Melittis melissophyllum, also known as the "Bumblebee Orchid," is a species of flowering plant in the Lamiaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and is often found in wooded areas, meadows, and along streambanks. The plant has purple or white flowers that resemble bumblebees, which is how it got its common name. The flowers are pollinated by bumblebees, which are attracted to the plant's scent and bright colors. Melittis melissophyllum is a popular garden plant, and is often grown for its attractive flowers and ability to attract pollinators.


Bastard Balm, also known as Melittis melissophyllum, is a perennial herb that belongs to the Lamiaceae family. It is commonly found in meadows, woodlands, and along the edges of hedgerows throughout Europe and Asia. The plant is known for its striking purple-pink flowers that bloom in the summer and early autumn.

Bastard Balm is a hardy plant that is easy to grow and maintain. It prefers well-drained soil and partial shade, but can also tolerate full sun. The plant can grow up to 1 meter tall and has large, green leaves that are slightly hairy. The flowers are bell-shaped and are usually a shade of pink or purple, with a white or yellow throat.

Bastard Balm has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. The plant is said to have anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and pain-relieving properties. It is also believed to be useful in treating respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. The leaves and flowers of the plant can be used to make teas, tinctures, and ointments.

Bastard Balm is also a popular plant among gardeners and nature enthusiasts. Its striking flowers make it a great addition to any garden, and it is also a valuable source of nectar for bees and other pollinators. The plant is easy to propagate by seed or cuttings, and is also readily available from many nurseries.

Additionally, Bastard Balm has been used for culinary purposes. The leaves of the plant have a slightly minty flavor and can be used in salads, sandwiches, or as a garnish. The leaves can also be used to make a flavorful tea that is said to have a calming effect.

It's also worth noting that the plant is commonly known as "Bastard Balm" due to its resemblance to the true Balm plant, but it is not related to it. It's also known as "Drooping Melittis" or "Purple Melittis" due to its unique flower shape and color.

Another interesting fact about Bastard Balm is that it has been used in traditional folk magic and witchcraft. The plant is said to have protective properties and was often used in charms and amulets to ward off evil spirits. The plant was also believed to have the power to heal wounds and bring good luck.

In terms of cultivation, Bastard Balm is relatively easy to care for and can be grown in most soil types, as long as it is well-drained. It prefers a slightly acidic to neutral soil and will thrive in partial shade or full sun. The plant should be watered regularly, but not overly so, to prevent root rot. It will also benefit from a fertilizer in spring.

In summary, Bastard Balm is a versatile plant that offers both beauty and benefits. Not only is it a great addition to any garden with its striking purple-pink flowers, but it also has a long history of traditional medicinal use and even culinary and magical uses. It's a hardy and easy to care for plant that deserves more attention and consideration in gardening and landscaping.

Another benefit of growing Bastard Balm is its ability to attract wildlife to your garden. The plant is a great source of nectar for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, making it an important plant for the conservation of these essential insects. Its flowers also provide a good food source for birds and other small mammals.

In terms of disease and pests, Bastard Balm is relatively hardy and resistant to most common garden pests and diseases. However, it can be susceptible to powdery mildew, especially in humid conditions. To prevent this, ensure that the plant has good air circulation and avoid over-watering. The use of a fungicide can also help to control powdery mildew if it does occur.

Bastard Balm can also be grown in pots, making it a great option for those with limited garden space. The plant is well-suited to container gardening and can be grown on a patio or balcony. When grown in pots, the plant should be repotted every 2-3 years to ensure that it has enough room for its roots to grow.

Finally, as with any plant, it is important to research and understand the specific growing conditions and requirements of Bastard Balm before adding it to your garden. It is also important to note that while the plant is not considered poisonous, it should be used with caution, as excessive consumption of the leaves can cause stomach irritation.

In conclusion, Bastard Balm is a versatile and beautiful plant with a wide range of benefits. It is easy to grow, hardy, and attractive to pollinators, making it a great addition to any garden. Its medicinal properties, culinary uses and traditional folk magic uses are just an added bonus. With proper care and attention, this plant can thrive in any garden, big or small.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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