Loading...
If Trump did not collude with the Russians does that mean that global warming is not true either?...

Mystery Plant: Everything in the mint family is not mint

071418mysteryplant
1 of 2

This attractive, perennial species grows to be a couple of feet tall.

Loading…

John Nelson

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Mint, sage, rosemary, thyme, horehound, catnip, bee-balm, marjoram, pennyroyal, lemon-balm, hyssop, lavender, dittany and basil (is it BAY-zil or BAAA-zil?): what an aromatic bunch of plants these are! All of these are fragrant members of the widely distributed “mint” family, one of the larger families of flowering plants, with 5,000 (or so) different species. This family is known correctly by either of two different names, Lamiaceae or Labiatae, so don’t worry, if you prefer saying “Lamiaceae,” someone using “Labiatae” in the conversation will know what you mint. (Oops, I meant “meant.”)

Whichever name you use, this family is rather easily recognized in most cases, its component members having opposite leaves (two at a time) and square stems (in cross section). In addition to the culinary value of this family, many of its members are well-known as popular garden ornamentals. The fragrance (or in some cases, the skunkiness) associated with various members of the mint family usually comes from volatile oils maintained in tiny glands on the surface of the leaves and stems.

There are some other characteristics shared by members of this family. For instance, the calyx and corolla are variously tubular, with the flower containing four stamens. (True sage, in the genus Salvia, is an oddball, with only two stamens. The shrubby “sage” or “sage-brushes” in the cowboy movies are actually members of the sunflower family.) The fruits of these plants are tiny, dry, one-seeded nutlets, and each flower’s ovary has the potential of producing a maximum of four of them.

Botanists sometimes refer, offhandedly, to members of this family as “mints.” It’s good to remember, though, that everything in the mint family is not mint. What we call “mint” and what often ends up in juleps and iced tea belongs to the genus Mentha (there are several dozen species). Similarly, it’s also good to know that everything in this family is not particularly fragrant or aromatic. Our Mystery Plant is one of these.

It’s an attractive, perennial species, commonly found in a variety of habitats from southern New England through northern Florida, then Texas and Missouri. Here in the Southeast, it is frequently seen along roadsides and under power lines. It grows to be a couple of feet tall, with egg-shaped leaves down below, becoming progressively narrower toward the top of the stem.

The calyx of each flower bears a small bump on the upper side, which enlarges dramatically as the flower ages. The corolla is flamboyant, strongly tubular and upturned, flaring out at the top into an upper and lower lip. Corolla color is generally blue, although pink-flowered forms are occasionally encountered.

Bees like them. After the flower is pollinated, the colorful corolla will eventually wither and fall away, leaving the calyx. That enlarging bump on the top of the calyx continues to swell, resembling a little hat, and it too eventually pops off, revealing the dark little nutlets inside.

[Answer: “Common skullcap,” Scutellaria integrifolia]

John Nelson is the curator of the A.C. Moore Herbarium at the University of South Carolina’s Department of Biological Sciences in Columbia, S.C. As a public service, the Herbarium offers free plant identifications. For more information, call 803-777-8196, visit www.herbarium.org or email nelson@sc.edu.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Look

March 24, 2019

For war veteran Franklin Smith, being a member of The American Legion for the last 29 years has allowed him to share his love and pride of America with others while also serving people in his own community.  

Smith is no stranger to living the military lifestyle. He and his six brothers…

032419americanlegion-1.JPG

March 24, 2019

If it's news to you that social climbers see buying their children's way into fancy, name-brand colleges as the functional equivalent of wearing Rolex watches or driving Maseratis, then I don't know where to start.

That is, those expensive private (and some public) universities are fashion…

Gene Lyons

March 24, 2019

I'm writing this in the air, flying home in a Boeing Max 8. They just announced the plane would be taken out of service as soon as we land. I'm not really worried that the plane has some hidden technical defect. I'm worried that the pilot's parents might have been rich enough to bribe his way in to…

JimMullen

March 24, 2019

 

With characteristic calmness, 88-year old owner Wilber Shirley is assuring customers of his renowned Wilber’s Barbecue in Goldsboro that the recently-shuttered restaurant will be back in business before long.

His iconic, wood-burning eatery, known for its whole hog barbecue, closed for…

Bob Garner

March 24, 2019

There comes a time of year when one lets one’s thoughts drift out of classrooms to the sunny shores of spring break. And no place is more synonymous with epic spring breaks than Florida, be it the crunch of calcite shells underfoot, or the sandy curls of George Washington on the beach.…

JoyHall

March 23, 2019

Sycamore Hill Missionary Baptist Church will celebrate the launch of a new ministry next month.

Come As You Are, known as CAYA, is designed to address the needs and concerns of young adults, ages 20-35. Led by LaVerna G. Parker, the group meets from 6:30-8 p.m. Mondays in the church fellowship hall…

March 22, 2019

Some movies deliver an accurate portrait of the teen psyche. Each decade has a film (or two) that deals with the turbulence of growing up.

Teen audiences can relate. We older folks can sit there and reminisce, a trip down memory lane, recalling the emotions we felt during our own coming-of-age.…

ShirrelRhoades_57.jpg-1.jpg

March 22, 2019

Cap­sules of movies play­ing lo­cally. New re­leases are in­di­cated with an as­ter­isk.

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL — A de­ac­ti­vated fe­male cy­borg is re­vived, but can­not re­mem­ber any­thing of her past life and goes on a…

Captain Marvel-14

March 21, 2019

GREENSBORO — State judicial officials say a North Carolina judge has been suspended with pay, although no official reason has been given.

Sharon Gladwell of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts said in an email that Chief Justice Cheri Beasley ordered a temporary suspension of…

March 20, 2019

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am hosting a birthday party for myself. I kind of decided at the last minute. The party is coming together pretty well — probably because I have a lot of experience hosting events.

I just remembered a couple of people that I definitely should have invited but didn't. I just…

Harriette Cole
145 stories in Look. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 15
        Next Page»   Last Page»