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Mentha

Mentha (mint; family Labiatae) A genus of herbs that have creeping rhizomes and flowers with a 10–13-nerved calyx with 5 nearly equal teeth, a corolla with 4 nearly equal lobes, and 4 equal stamens. The plants contain pleasantly fragrant volatile oils, much used in flavouring and for sauces. The oil is extracted and also used as a mild antiseptic. There are 25 species and many hybrids, occurring in temperate Eurasia and in S. Africa.

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"Mentha." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mentha." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mentha

"Mentha." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mentha

Mint Family

Mint Family

Biology of mints

Native mints of North America

Economic products obtained from mints

Mints as ornamental plants

Mints as weeds

Resources

The mint family (Labiatae or Lamiaceae) is a large group of dicotyledonous plants occurring worldwide in all types of climates except in extreme arctic and antarctic conditions. There are about 3,000 species in the mint family and 200 genera. The most diverse

groups are the genus Salvia with 500 species, Hyptis with 350 species, and Scutellaria, Coleus, Plectranthus, and Stachys, each with 200 species.

Some species in the mint family are economically important and are grown as herbs used to flavor foods and beverages or for the production of essential oils that are used as fragrances in perfumery. Some species are also grown as showy or fragrant ornamentals in gardens.

Biology of mints

Most species in the mint family are annuals or herb like perennials, and a few species are shrubs. Most species of mints have aromatic glands and hairs on their stems and foliage, and when the leaves are crushed strongly scented vapors are released. The stems of mints are commonly four-sided in cross section, and most species have oppositely arranged leaves.

The flowers of mints are bilaterally symmetric. Because they are mostly pollinated by insects, mints have relatively brightly colored, nectar-rich flowers usually grouped into a larger inflorescence The lower, fused petals of the flower provide a platform for pollinators to land on called a lip (or in Latin, labia, from which the family name Labiatae is derived). Most species in the mint family have bisexual flowers, containing both male (staminate) and female (pistilate) organs. The fruits are small, one-seeded nutlets.

Native mints of North America

Many species in the mint family are native to natural plant communities of North America. Many additional species have been introduced from Eurasia and elsewhere, especially species that are grown in agriculture or horticulture, and some of these have escaped from gardens and become naturalized in appropriate habitats in North America.

Some of the more interesting and attractive groups of native species include the skullcaps (Scutellaria ) spp., physostegias (Physostegia ) spp., hemp-nettles (Stachys ) spp., sages (Salvia ) spp., horse-mints or bergamots (Monarda ) spp., bugle-weeds (Lycopus ) spp., and true mints (Mentha ) spp.

Economic products obtained from mints

A number of herbs are derived from aromatic species in the mint family, sometimes as cultivars that have been selectively bred to enhance the aromatic qualities of the plants. The most commonly known of these herbs are derived from several herbaceous, perennial species in the genus Mentha, originally native to Eurasia but now cultivated widely in suitable, usually temperate climates. The common mint (Mentha arvensis ), spearmint (M. spicata ), and peppermint (M. piperita ) are all used to flavor candies, chewing gum, toothpaste, and tea, and are sometimes used to prepare condiments to serve with meats and other foods. All of these species can be grown on heavy, wet soils that are unsuitable for most other crops. Peppermint is generally harvested in large-scale agriculture by mowing, its water content is partially dried, and the aromatic oils are extracted for use as flavorings and scents. Other species of mints are grown and harvested in similar ways.

The hoarhound (Marrubium vulgare ) of Europe and Asia is another species used to flavor candies. Common sage (Salvia officinalis ) is used to flavor foods, toothpaste, and mouthwash. Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana ) is used to flavor some types of cooked meats, stews, and other foods, as are basil (Ocimum basilicum ), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ), summer savory (Satureja hortensis ), thyme (Thymus vulgaris ), hyssop (Hysoppus officinalis ), clary (Salvia sclarea ),and balm (Melissa officinalis ).

Various species in the mint family contain aromatic essential oils that can be extracted and used to scent potpourri and other decorations or as fragrances in the mixing of perfumes. Lavender (Lavandula officinalis ) is a Mediterranean shrub that is commonly used for these purposes. Lavender is an important ingredient of eau de cologne and lavender water, and it is commonly dried and put into small bags called sachets and used to scent clothing cupboards and drawers. Other species of the mint family from which

KEY TERMS

Bilateral symmetry In reference to flower shape, this means that a vertical sectioning of the flower will produce two halves with symmetric features.

Cultivar A distinct variety of a plant that has been bred for particular, agricultural or culinary attributes. Cultivars are not sufficiently distinct in the genetic sense to be considered to be subspecies.

Essential oil These are various types of volatile organic oils that occur in plants and can be extracted for use in perfumery and flavoring.

Inflorescence A grouping or arrangement of florets or flowers into a composite structure, often for the purpose of making the flowers more attractive to animal pollinators.

Nutlet A diminutive nut, or a small, dry, one-seeded fruit with a hard coat.

essential oils are extracted include the pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides ), rosemary, sage, and thyme.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria ) is a species that felines find intriguing, and they will contentedly smell this species and play with toys stuffed with its dry foliage.

Mints as ornamental plants

Some species in the mint family are commonly grown indoors or in gardens as leafy ornamentals. One of the more popular groups of foliage plants is the various species and varieties of coleus (Coleus spp.,) bee-balm (Monarda fistulosa ), bergamot (Monarda didyma ), gardensage (Salvia splendens ), and common sage (Salvia officinalis ).

Many people cultivate their own herb gardens of various species in the mint family that are used as flavorings. This is done to ensure a continuous and fresh supply of these flavorful herbs for use in aromatic, epicurean cooking. Recently, people have also began to grow these plants indoors under artificial sources of light so that they will continue to have access to fresh edible mints during the winter.

Mints as weeds

Many species in the mint family are grown in gardens and in agriculture, and these have been transported around the world for cultivation in suitable climates. In some cases, these species have escaped from cultivation and have become minor weeds of agriculture, lawns, and disturbed areas. Examples of such weeds in North America include catnip, ground-ivy (Glechoma hederacea ), heal-all (Prunella vulgaris ), hemp-nettle (Galeopsis tetrahit ), henbit (Lamium amplexicaule ), and motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca ).

Resources

BOOKS

Hvass, E. Plants That Serve and Feed Us. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1975.

Klein, R.M. The Green World: An Introduction to Plants and People. New York: Harper and Row, 1987.

Woodland, D. W. Contemporary Plant Systematics. 3rd ed. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1999.

OTHER

Wildflowers and Weeds. Lamiaceae: Wildflowers of the Mint Family(Labiatae) <http://www.wildflowers-and-weeds.com/Plant_Families/Lamiaceae.htm> (accessed December 2, 2006).

Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew: Science and Horticulture. Lamiaceae (Labiatae) <http://www.rbg.kew.org.uk/scihort/lamiaceae.html> (accessed December 2, 2006).

Bill Freedman

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"Mint Family." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mint Family." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mint-family-0

"Mint Family." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mint-family-0