Coyote Mint

Coyote Mint © DSchiel

Monardella villosa ssp. villosa
NATIVE – CA ENDEMIC

Description (Jepson, PlantID.net)

  • Eudicotyledon
    • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
  • Mint Family (Lamiaceae)
  • Upright to trailing herbaceous perennial
    • Acquires a woody base with age
  • Stems hairy and square in cross-section
  • Leaves
    • Opposite (2 leaves at each junction with stem) and decussate (alternate pairs perpendicular to each other)
    • Toothed margins
    • Underside sparsely hairy to woolly
      • Hairs have glands that release a fragrance when touched
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) head-like in compact clusters
    • Individual flowers are bilaterally symmetric with narrow, pale lavender to magenta petals
      • 2-lobed upper lip points upward
      • 3-lobed lower lip curves backwards
    • Anthers (pollen-producing part of the stamen/male structure) extend beyond petals (exserted)
    • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit consists of 4 nutlets (small, dry fruits that do not split open, derived from a multi-chambered ovary)
  • Height to 20 in.
Flower © KKorbholz

Distribution

  • Native and endemic (limited) to California
    • Grows in serpentine soil in grasslands and open areas of woodlands, forests, and chaparral
    • 95% of plants occur on ultramafic soils, e.g. serpentine; see ultramafic affinity rankings (Calflora per Safford and Miller 2020)
    • See Serpentine Grassland for more about Edgewood’s serpentine soil and the unique communities it supports
    • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • Grows at elevations to 4,300 ft.

Uses (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)

  • Nectar and pollen source for native bees
  • Nectar source for many butterflies, including monarch (Danaus plexippus), Chalcedon checkerspot (Euphydryas chalcedona), pale swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon), western tiger swallowtail (P. rutulus), calliope fritillary (Speyeria callippe), and several species of skippers
  • Native people had many medicinal uses for this plant
    • Decoction and salve used for respiratory conditions
    • Infusion of leaves used for stomach aches
    • Poultice of plant applied to cuts made on the back to draw out ‘bad blood’ for pneumonia

Name Derivation

  • Monardella (mon-ar-DEL-la) – refers to plants in this genus appearing to be dwarf forms of those in the genus Monarda, also in the Mint family, which includes bee balm and bergamot
    • Monarda – named after Nicholás Bautista Monardes (1493-1588), Spanish botanist and physician who studied American plants and their medicinal uses
  • villosa (vil-OH-sa) – from the Latin villosus, “shaggy” or “roughly hairy”

Notes

  • Aromatic oils, characteristic of the Mint family, smell good to most humans, but deter many potential herbivores
  • Edgewood’s coyote mint is classified as a subspecies
    • Subspecies rank is used to recognize geographic distinctiveness, whereas variety rank is appropriate for variants seen throughout the geographic range of the species; in practice, these two ranks are not distinct

At Edgewood

  • Found in serpentine and non-serpentine grasslands and in open areas in chaparral and woodlands
    • See iNaturalist for observations of Monardella villosa
  • Flowers May – June

See General References

Specific References

Alexander, E.B. 2010, Oct. & 2011, Jan. Serpentine Soils and Why They Limit Plant Survival and Growth. Fremontia, vol. 38:4/39:1, pp. 28-31.

Safford, H.D. 2010, Oct. & 2011, Jan. Serpentine Endemism of the California Flora. Fremontia, vol. 38:4/39:1, pp. 32-39.

Safford, H.D. and Miller, J.E.D. 2020. An Updated Database of Serpentine Endemism in the California Flora. Madroño, 67(2), pp. 85-104.