Mint Family

Coyote Mint © DSchiel

Lamiaceae (lay-mee-AY-see-ee)

Iconic Features

    • Stems usually square
    • Leaves simple and generally opposite
    • Leaves usually strongly scented
    • Flower a two-lipped tube

    Description (Jepson)

      • Eudicotyledons (eudicots) – a major lineage of flowering plants including most plants traditionally described as dicots and generally characterized by
        • 2 seed leaves (dicotyledon)
        • Netted (reticulate) leaf venation
        • Flower parts in fours and fives
        • Pollen grains with 3 pores (tricolpate)
        • Vascular bundles in stem arranged in a ring
        • Taproot system
      • Annuals, herbaceous perennials, and shrubs
      • Stems usually 4-sided (square in cross-section), though not all square-stemmed plants are mints
        • Bee plant (Scrophularia californica), in the Figwort family, has square stems
      • Leaves
        • Generally simple (not divided into leaflets), though can be deeply lobed
        • Generally opposite (2 leaves at each junction with stem) and decussate (alternate pairs perpendicular to each other)
        • Usually with glands that produce a strong scent
      • Flowers
        • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) in dense heads or whorled (3 or more leaves/flowers at stem junction) at distinct intervals along the stem, like a fancy-trimmed poodle tail
        • Tubular flowers are usually bilaterally symmetrical and 2-lipped with 2 fused upper petals and 3 fused lower petals
        • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
        • Usually 4 stamens, which are exerted (extending beyond petals), with 1 pair longer than the other
      • Fruit a set of 4 single-seeded nutlets (a small, dry fruit that does not split open, derived from a multi-chambered ovary); not all may mature


        • Approximately 7,200 species worldwide
          • Includes yerba buena, hedge nettles, and pitcher sage
          • Also includes many cultivated herbs with culinary and medicinal uses, e.g. chia, lavender, basil, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, and thyme
        • Scientific name from the included genus Lamium, from the Latin for “mint”
        • Represented by 12 species at Edgewood

        See General References

        Browse Some Edgewood Plants in this Family