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This underutilized herbaceous perennial is easy to grow and attracts masses of pollinators from dawn to dusk.  Its wiry stems, fine-textured foliage with minty fragrance, and dainty white flowers are surprisingly hardy, growing 2-3 feet tall and a little less wide in nearly any moist, well-drained soil type in full to part sun. Dense, button-shaped clusters of 4-50 white, purple-spotted flowers bloom mid-summer, attracting bees, wasps, flies, small butterflies, and beetles. The flowers mature to long seed tubes in tightly clustered heads that remain on the stem for winter interest. The plant spreads vigorously by rhizomes to form small colonies, especially in moister soils, making it an ideal choice for meadows, woodland edges, and spaces where it can spread freely. Cut back the roots in spring to control in smaller spaces. Virginia mountain mint is more resistant to foliar disease than some mints, but stressed plants sometimes develop rust.

 

Native habitats include wet prairies, thickets, stream edges, swamps, and moist bluffs. When given some space, mountain mint is great for borders, herb gardens, native plant gardens, and along ponds and streams and creates a pleasing contrast to plants with large leaves and flowers. Use as a groundcover for steep banks to help stabilize soil.

 

Plant Characteristics:

Grows 2-3' tall and 1-2' wide.

 

Prefers full sun and tolerates part shade.

 

Prefers moist-to-average well-drained soils, including clay, loam, gravel, and sand. Adapts to any pH and spreads aggressively in moister soils.

 

Tubular, two-lipped white flowers appear in numerous dense clusters, which bloom a few at a time July-August. Fertile flowers mature into long, brown capsules, each containing four brown seeds that are dispersed by wind when the stem is shaken.

 

Green leaves are narrow and pointed, up to 2½ inches long, toothless and hairless, and covered with a whitish bloom.

 

Stems are square and green or reddish on older plants.

 

Wildlife Value:

The flowers are visited by butterflies such as crescent and banded hairstreak. The abundant nectar attracts many species of bees, including honey, cuckoo, green sweat, small resin, bumble, and yellow-faced. Visiting wasps include great golden digger, great black wasp, cuckoo, bee wolves, grass-carrying, thread-waisted, and potter pearl. Mountain mints are a host plant for 5 species of caterpillars, including the hermit sphinx and tobacco budworm moths (pictured here with their caterpillars).

 

Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

A poultice of the leaves can be used to treat headaches, and a tea made from the leaves is used for menstrual and digestive disorders, colic, coughs, colds, chills and fevers.

 

Fresh or dried leaves are used in salads or to make tea.

Mint, Virginia Mountain, Pycnanthemum virginianum

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