Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena © KKorbholz

Clinopodium douglasii
NATIVE

Description (Jepson, PlantID.net)

  • Eudicotyledon
    • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
  • Mint Family (Lamiaceae)
  • Trailing perennial herb
    • Grows from woody rootstock, with short ascending branches
    • Stems often root as it spreads
    • May form mats in favorable conditions
  • Leaves
    • Opposite (2 leaves at each junction with stem)
    • Ovate-triangular and stiff, with toothed margins
    • Aromatic
  • Stems usually 4-sided (square in cross-section)
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is a pair of small, tubular flowers, which grow on stalks from the leaf axil (branching point)
    • Bilaterally-symmetric, two-lipped flower, with 2 fused upper petals and 3 fused lower petals
    • White flowers age to lavender
    • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit with 4 nutlets (a small, dry fruit that does not split open, derived from a multi-chambered ovary)
  • Height to 4 in.; usually less than 3 ft. wide

Distribution

  • Native to California
    • Grows in woodlands and shady areas of chaparral
    • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • Outside California, grows from British Columbia southward into California and east to Idaho
  • Grows at elevations to 2,900 ft.

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

  • Visited by bees
  • Aromatic oils, characteristic of the Mint family, smell good to most humans, but deter many potential herbivores
  • Native people and early settlers had many uses for yerba buena
    • Decoction of plant parts used to treat fevers and colds
    • Infusion of plant parts taken as a sedative for insomnia
    • Leaves
      • Made into a refreshing tea, also used to treat stomach ailments
      • Put in hats and clothes and hung around the neck as a perfume
      • Wrapped around the head to treat a headache
    • Branches tossed on the fire to create an aromatic disinfectant
    • Skin washes used to treat rashes
    • Used as an aphrodisiac
David Douglas

Name Derivation

  • Clinopodium (kly-no-PO-dee-um) – from the Greek klino, “to slope” or “recline,” and podos or podios, “a foot”
  • douglasii (DUG-las-ee-eye) – named for David Douglas (1798-1834), Scottish botanist and collector
    • Douglas has over 80 plant and animal species named in his honor, more than any other person
  • Yerba buena – from the Spanish for “good herb,” a name given to a number of aromatic plants

Notes

  • Yerba Buena, the Spanish settlement later called San Francisco, was named for this plant, which grew abundantly there
  • Gently rub the leaf and smell the wonderful minty aroma; remember, no need to pick the leaf!

At Edgewood

  • Found in woodlands
  • Flowers May – August

See General References

Specific References

David Douglas. 1836. Frontispiece illustration to Vol. 2 of the Companion to the Botanical Magazine. Public Domain.

Prigge, B.A. and Gibson, A.C. 2013. Clinopodium douglasii. A Naturalist’s Flora of the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills, California. Web version, hosted at Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. National Park Service. US Department of Interior.