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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - May 19, 2013

From: Earlysville, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of small mint-like plant in Virginia
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am looking for a mint plant my mother use to have but we didn't plant. It grew in Earlysville, Virginia in red clay soil. The cat loved it but it was neither catnip nor catmint. It was under six inches and grew tightly packed. It had upright stalks with small pointed leaves all the way up it slightly graduated with very little space between leaf segments. It had a bluish color to it and it never bloomed, but if you brushed it slightly with your leg it was very aromatically minty. I cant find anything that looks like it, I hope you can help me find it or at least narrow it down. Thank you.

ANSWER:

According to the USDA Plants Database there are more than 65 species of plants (both native and introduced) in the Family Lamiaceae (Mint Family) that occur in Albemarle County, Virginia.  Of those 65+ plants I found 4 that were somewhat similar to your description.  Only the first one (American false pennyroyal) is a North American native. The other three are introduced species native to Europe, Asia and Africa.

Hedeoma pulegioides (American false pennyroyal) is a North American native.  Here are photos and more information from Illinois Wildflowers that reports it has a strong fragrance.

Glechoma hederacea (Ground ivy or Creeping Charlie) is native to Europe and southwestern Asia and is considered invasive in the Mid-Atlantic and New EnglandAlmostEdenPlants.com (and others) report it as being fragrant.

Lamium amplexicaule (Henbit) is a native of Europe, western Asia and northern Africa.  Here are more photos from CalPhotos from the University of California-Berkeley.  University of Minnesota Extension reports it as having a minty fragrance.

Lamium purpureum (Purple deadnettle) is also a native of Europe and Asia.  Here are more photos and information from Illinois Wildflowers.  Reported (by NatureGate) to have an unpleasant fragranceLearn2Grow says it has fragrant flowers and foliage.

I hope you recognize one of these as your little mint plant.  If not, you might try contacting the Virginia Native Plant Society (VNPS).  The Jefferson Chapter of VNPS is the one that includes Albemarle County.

 

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