This attractive, herbaceous perennial has low-growing, erect stems that are topped with spike-like clusters of lavender-pink to white flowers. American germander, also called wood sage or Canada germander, is often grown for its lustrous, dark green leaves and ability to colonize and form an attractive groundcover. It thrives in a variety of soils, including moist or poorly drained, and it grows in full sun or part shade. The dense flower spikes that appear mid- to late-summer are quite showy, and the flower's distinctive structure requires long-tongued insects or hummingbirds for pollination. American germander’s flowers have greatly reduced upper lips and unusually long lower lips that distinguish it from other members of the mint family. While some of its mint relatives are edible, T. canadense is not. The plant’s genus name, Teucrium, is believed to refer to King Teucer of Troy, who used the plant in his medicines.
American germander requires little maintenance unless you don’t want it to spread. Pruning or installing barriers will help to keep it in check. Because it prefers moist or shallow, submerged soils, it's not drought tolerant and will need to be watered if planted in drier conditions.
Native habitats include grasslands, marshes, forest edges, riversides, roadsides, and partially shaded vacant lots. In Ohio, this plant is seen growing in large patches along roadside ditches in late summer. It’s a great flower to use as a groundcover and also for perennial gardens, banks of streams and ponds, and herb gardens. It responds well to being pruned into a low hedge or a shaped border.
Grows 2-3’ tall and wide. Spreads by rhizomes to form colonies.
Prefers full sun or part shade.
Prefers moist conditions and grows in sandy loam, loamy clay, and limestone-based soils.
Spikes of numerous flowers 1-5” long bloom June-September on the ends of stems. Each flower is about 1/2" long with a small upper lip and long lower lip that is marked by purple striations and spots. Two pairs of petal-like extensions are above the lower lip. Flowers produce four round, pitted seeds with scattered, white hairs.
Opposite leaves are up to 5” long and broadly ovate or lance shaped with coarse serrations and deep veination.
Stout central stem has four ridges and is covered in downy hairs. Smaller side stems may appear on upper part of plant.
Host plant information is not currently available on nwf.org. Long-tongued bees are the most important pollinators, including bumble, honey, anthophorine, cuckoo, miner, and leafcutting bees. Other visitors include green metallic bees, bee flies, thick-headed flies, and various butterflies or skippers. Occasionally, hummingbirds and hummingbird moths seek the nectar. Mammals don't bother this plant because of the bitter leaves.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
Native Americans used a tea of brewed leaves as a diuretic and to increase urination. It was also used to make a poultice for wounds.
Caution: Consumption of germander has caused liver disease and even death. Although it has a history of being used medicinally, it is not recommended for use as an herbal remedy.
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