Blephilia hirsuta (Hairy Woodmint)
|Also known as:||Hairy Pagoda Plant|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; moist woods, thickets, floodplains|
|Bloom season:||June - September|
|Plant height:||16 to 30 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Whorls (verticils) of flowers around leaf axils in the upper part of the plant and usually multiple whorls at the tip of the stem forming a thick spike. Flowers are 1/3 to ½ inch long, tubular, white to lavender, the inner surfaces covered in purple spots and hairy on the outer surfaces. The upper lip is narrow and arching, the lower is broader and 3-lobed, the central lobe tongue-like, longer than the two lateral lobes. 2 stamens and a forked style extend just below the tip of the upper lip. The tubular calyx holding the flower has five sharp teeth with long soft hairs, the three above much longer than the two below. Leafy and hairy, oval to linear lance shaped bracts at the base of the verticils are shorter than the flowers.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are simple and opposite, up to 3½ inches long and 1½ inches wide, lance-elliptic to egg-shaped, hairy, serrated around the edges, tapered to a pointed tip, rounded to tapering at the base, on a hairy stalk about 1 inch long. Leaf pairs are at right angles to the pair below. Stems are square, mostly unbranched, and covered with long, soft, spreading hairs. Crushed leaves are pleasantly fragrant.
Blephilia hirsuta is a species of the eastern hardwood forest with Minnesota at the very western edge of its range. Except for one specimen from Cook county dating back to 1892, the moist, shaded ravines of our southeastern counties is where to look for it. It propagates readily from seeds available from native growers and does well as a shaded border planting in the home garden. Similar is Wild Mint (Mentha arvensis), which is more commonly found in sunnier locations, has smaller pinkish flowers without purple spots, lacks the spike cluster at the top of the stem, and is less densely hairy.
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Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in a private garden in Ramsey County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?