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