Family Description

The mint family is a group of dicotyledonous herbs, occasionally shrubs, found mostly in warm temperate regions with the Mediterranean basin considered the center of distribution. Approximately 180 genera and 3500 species make up this important family. Leaves are aromatic and simple with opposite arrangement, often with leaf position rotating 90° at each node up the square stem. Viewed from above, leaves appear 4-ranked. Flowers are 5-merous, tubular with 2 lips and irregular symmetry. They are borne in axillary cymes creating a false whorl known as a verticillaster. Flowers have 4 stamens, with 2 long and 2 short (didynamous). Colors are in all shades with reds, blues and white common. The fruit consists of four 1-seeded nutlets which, for want of a better description, look like mouse droppings.
The most characteristic features of the family are:
  • square stems
  • irregular flowers in verticillasters
  • aromatic foliage

Plants in this family are easily grown doing best in sunny, well drained sites. Propagation is easy by cuttings or by seed with germination best above 65° but below 80°F. Pests are not serious. This family provides many of the culinary herbs of the herb garden and several plants are grown for oil extraction.

Important genera belonging to this family include Ajuga, Blephilia, Calamintha, Coleus, Galeopsis, Glechoma, Hyptis, Hyssopus, Lamiastrum, Lamium, Lavandula, Leonotis, Lycopus, Melissa, Mentha, Monarda, Nepeta, Ocimum, Perilla, Perovskia, Phlomis, Plectranthus, Prunella, Salvia, Satureja, Scutellaria, Sidertis, Stachys, Teucrium, and Thymus.

Salvia superba (left) with typical verticillasters, Salvia splendens (center), and Lamium maculatum showing 4-ranked leaves and bilabate (2-lipped) flowers

Representative Species (Herbs)

Lamiaceae (Ornamentals) are HERE

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  Lavandula angustifolia Lavender
* Mentha spp. Mint
  Melissa officinalis Lemon Balm
  Monarda didyma Beebalm
  Nepeta cataria Catnip
* Ocimum basilicum Sweet Basil
  Origanum marjorana Sweet Marjoram
* Origanum vulgaris Oregano
  Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary
* Salvia officinalis Common Sage
  Thymus spp. Thyme