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; often forms mats
      • Grows from woody rootstock, with short ascending branches; stems often root as it spreads
    • 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 (Picking or removing any natural material from public land is illegal)

        • 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 for fever and colds
          • Leaves used to cure stomach ailments and to make a refreshing tea
          • Infusion of plant taken as a sedative for insomnia
          • Leaves put in hats and clothes and vines hung around the neck as perfume or wrapped around the head to treat a headache
          • Branches tossed on the fire to create an aromatic disinfectant
          • Skin washes for treating rashes and prickly heat
          • Reputation 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


            • 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.