Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

Lamiaceae has given us many herbs used in cooking and perfumery; Rosemary, French Lavender, Thyme, Majoram, Sage, and the garden mints are just a few. Members of this family are usually aromatic, but not necessarily minty; some can be outright repulsive in their odor.

Lamiaceae are distinctive, in a complex sort of way: The stems are square with opposite leaves, with each pair of leaves at right angles to the ones above and below it. The flowers are in whorls in the axils of the upper leaves, often so dense that they seem to be continuous.The corolla of the individual flower is usually 2-lipped, with 2 lobes forming the upper lip and 3 lobes the lower lip. There are 4 stamens in 2 pairs, with theupper pair often reduced to filaments with no anthers. The fruiting part of the pistil has four lobes, each producing a nutlet with a single seed.

Horehound, Self Heal and Motherwort are known Lamiaceae members with medicinal qualities, and any feline can attest to the rejuvenating properties of Nepeta cataria, or Catnip.

Lamiaceae is a large family, so variation is expected; some flowers are regular rather than lipped, some seem to have tube-like structures, but the stems, leaves, and general flower growth is fairly distinctive for all members of this family. Many members of Lamiaceae make attractive garden additions, particulary the showy sages and mints.

NOTE: We try not to use the name "Hedge Nettle", as these plants are not really nettles at all, but mints. We've adopted the suggested name "Wood Mint", instead, as a more accurate common name (or about as accurate as a common name can be!)

On Montara Mountain, Lamiaceae Family members include:

Pitcher Sage - Lepechinia calycina

Coyote Mint - Monardella villosa var franciscana

Yerba Buena - Satureja douglasii

Rigid Wood Mint - Stachys ajugoides

California Wood Mint - Stachys bullata californica



Lepechinia calycina:
Pitcher Sage

Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

Flowers: 5 petals, white tinged with lavender, tubular with large "mouths", one inch long, single blooms numerous along stems.

Blooms: April - June.

Leaves: Minty looking: Large, triangular, toothed, coarse looking with a strong smell, 4 -12 inches.

Fruit/Seeds: 1 inch long, green-pink fruit filled with numerous fuzzy black seeds.

Location: Dry trails, partial shaded - Montara Mountain and Brooks Falls Trails in San Pedro Valley County Park.

Status: Native - Common.

Lepechinia calycina
600x450 JPEG - 44K

Further description & Comment: A large, handsome, fuzzy lime-green schrub, 2 - 6 ft tall with square stems of new growth, woody base except for new growth. Distinctive color variation from dark green matte at bottom to bright near-charteuse at growing tips.

Lepechinia calycina has a strong active anti-oxidant content, and has many medicinal uses, the most interesting being a basic sunscreen when combined with Chaparral (Larrea tridentat) and olive oil.

As a good example of Common Name confusion, some guides refer to Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage), a southern california sage with red flowers of similar shape, as Pitcher Sage.

600x450 JPEG - 56K

600x450 JPEG - 48K

Photo by Bill and Barbara VanderWerf



Monardella villosa var franciscana:
Coyote Mint

Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

Flowers: Pink-Purple-Blue tiny 5 petaled flowers; Developing from small green bud ball into dense pin cushion like clusters on tops of stems.

Blooms: May - August.

Leaves: Fuzzy, dark green, oval shaped and ribbed laterally, .5 - 1 inch long, very fragrant; in pairs along stem alternating at right angles.

Fruit/Seeds: ??

Location: All trails and locations.

Status: Native - Common.

Monardella villosa var franciscana
600x450 JPEG - 44K

Photo by Bill and Barbara VanderWerf

Further description & Comment: 1 - 2 ft tall, many upright square stems, growing in colonies, common along trails.

At left, the pink/purple puff balls of Coyote mint in bloom. Note the darker, round knobs that the blooms begin as.

600 x 450 JPEG - 64K



Satureja douglasii:
Yerba Buena

Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

Flowers: White to lavender, small, tubular with two lips; growing where leaves join stems.

Blooms: May - August.

Leaves: Light-Green, oval, small, very fragrant; in pairs along stem.

Fruit/Seeds: ??

Location: All trails and areas. Usually growing out from beneath bushy vegetation.

Status: Native - Common.

Satureja douglasii
600x450 JPEG - 60K

635x240 JPEG - 36K

As it's usually seen - single trailing vines crawling out into the open areas.

 Further description & Comment: Low growing and trailing, 6 inches - 2 ft long, square stemmed. Yerba Buena means "Good Herb" - it was the original name for San Francisco.

Some claim you can make tea from it, others say it's to gag over. I tend to be in the latter group, although I understand I may hav been making it too strong. Word is you just want to use one fresh leaf per cup.


Return to Page 1 Juncaceae (Rush Family)

Continue to Page 2 of Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

  Plant Listings by: Family & Latin Name Common Name Color
Top of Page     Home