Virginia Mountain Mint

Common Name: Virginia Mountain Mint.

Scientific Name: Pycnanthemum Virginianum.

What to look for?  Multiple clusters of small, white flowers. Virginia Mountain Mint is a tall, erect, many-branched plant. The tall stems are green or reddish in color. The opposite leaves are long but narrow. Atop each stem is a somewhat flat-topped, terminal cluster of small, white tubular flowers. With the many branches, Virginia Mountain Mint is bushy with multiple clusters of these white flowers. Each umbel or cluster has four (4) or more flowers and some as many as fifty.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? There are several Virginia Mountain Mint plants in the restored prairie at Stonegate Park.

How big are they? The Virginia Mountain Mint grows to three (3) feet. The narrow, oval leaves are approximately 2 ½ inches long and only ¼ of an inch across. The individual flowers are less than ¼ of an inch in length.

Where do they grow and thrive? Virginia Mountain Mint is native to Illinois and is found primarily in the central and northern areas of the state. Across the U.S., Virginia Mountain Mint ranges from the Great Plains east and up into Canada. This plant is usually found in moist prairies, moist meadows in woodland areas, thickets, fens, and swamps – not in the mountains!

When do they bloom? The blooming period occurs from July to September.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? The nectar of the Virginia Mountain Mint flowers attracts a variety of insects, including various bees, wasps, flies, small butterflies, and beetles. Because of the mint fragrance of the leaves and stems, most grazers and nibbles rarely bother this plant.

Interesting Facts About the Virginia Mountain Mint:

  • The genus name Pycnanthemum, is derived from two Greek words - pyknos meaning 'dense' and anthos, meaning 'a flower' - together referring to the densely flowered clusters.

  • The species virginianum, would be "of Virginia" where first described.

  • All parts of the plant emit a strong, mint-like aroma when crushed.

  • The name 'Mountain Mint' is something of a misnomer because this plant does not usually occur in mountainous habitats.

  • The root system produces rhizomes, which spread and vegetatively form a small colony of plants.

For more information on the Virginia Mountain Mint and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, Minnesota Wildflowers, Missouri Botanical Garden, and Friends of the Wildflower Garden.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!