Mentha arvensis (Wild Mint)
|Also known as:
|part shade, sun; moist soil; thickets, along shores, wet meadows
|July - September
|6 to 24 inches
|Wetland Indicator Status:
|GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):
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Clusters of about 20 flowers around the leaf axils along much of the plant, blooming from the bottom of the plant up. Individual flowers are about 1/8 inch long and tubular. The upper lip is notched into 2 parts, the lower lip has 3 lobes of equal size. 4 long stamens protrude from the tube. Flower color ranges from pink to pale lavender to white, with darker spots on the inside of the tube. The calyx is hairy with short, triangular lobes and is about a third as long as the flower.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are up to 2½ inches long and 1 inch wide, narrowly egg-shaped to elliptic, pointed at the tip, serrated around the edges, finely hairy on the underside, and have short stalks. Attachment is opposite, with pairs at right angles to those above and below it. Leaves are strongly aromatic when crushed. Stems are square, ascending to erect, green or sometimes red, and hairy, sometimes just along the angles.
Fruit is a set of 4 oval nutlets, each containing a single seed.
Wild Mint has some similarities to Lycopus species, which also have opposite leaves, whorls of small flowers at the leaf nodes, and found in wet places. Lycopus flowers are white with only 2 stamens, however, and the leaves are not aromatic when crushed. There are apparently 2 varieties, with var. canadensis found in North America and var. arvensis native to Europe. According to the University of Michigan Herbarium, there is some evidence the North American species is derived from ancient hybridization of European Mentha species; they have accepted the name Mentha canadensis and dropped arvensis altogether Perhaps a name change will come to Minnesota, as well.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.
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