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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Virginia Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum)

In North Dakota, Virginia mountain mint has only been collected in a few areas in the southeastern corner of the state. Elsewhere, the plant ranges from Quebec to Minnesota southward to Virginia, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

Virginia mountain mint is an aromatic perennial from slender rhizomes (underground stems that root from the nodes). Plants are usually branched on the upper half. The lance-shaped leaves are 1-2 inches long and usually smooth. Flowers are arranged in tight clusters at the top of the plant. The 1/2 inch long flowers are whitish or pale lavender, the lower lip spotted with purple. Each mature flower produces four, 1-seeded nutlets less than 1/8 inch long.

Look for Virginia mountain mint in August in swales in native prairie. I found no information on the effects of livestock on this species. The Chippewa used the buds and flowers for flavoring meat and broth.

The mountain mints are members of the mint family (Lamiaceae) which contains about 3,500 species worldwide. Mints are well known for producing a large variety of oils or spices such as lavender, basil, marjoram, horehound, and thyme. Catnip is also in the mint family. The generic name Pycnanthemum stems from the Greek puknos, "dense," and anthemon, "flower" in reference to the crowded flower clusters. Virginia mountain mint was first recognized as a species by the great Swedish father of modern plant taxonomy Carl von Linne (Linnaeus) in 1753. Studies of the plant by Theodore Durand (1855-1912) and Benjamin Jackson (1846-1927) led to its currently-accepted nomenclature published in 1908.

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