Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena © KKorbholz

Clinopodium douglasii

Description (Jepson,

  • 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


  • 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)

  • Wildlife
    • Visited by bees
    • Aromatic oils, characteristic of the Mint family, smell good to most humans, but deter many potential herbivores
  • Native people
    • 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
    • At Edgewood, 9 scientific plant names honor Douglas, e.g. blue oak (Quercus douglasii) and purple mouse-ears (Diplacus douglasii), as well as several common names, e.g. Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii) and Douglas’ microseris (Microseris douglasii ssp. douglasii)
  • Yerba buena – from the Spanish for “good herb,” a name given to a number of aromatic plants


  • 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 [Frontispiece illustration]. 1836.  W.J. Hooker. Companion to the Botanical Magazine (Vol. 2). Public Domain.

Prigge, B.A. and A.C. Gibson. 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. United States Department of Interior, National Park Service.