|Mountain Mint is known for swarming beneficial insect activity,|
unlike any other plant.
As I wrote earlier, Mountain Mint impressed me the first time I saw it in Washington DC at one of the government gardens there. That was around 30 years ago, when finding a supplier of unusual plants was a challenge. Now that takes about five seconds with Google - "purchase mountain mint."
I bought two for a reasonable price and planted them in the front yard. But our helper saw one as a weed to be covered over with cardboard and wood mulch - and he did. I knew the proximate location but could not find it. Nor could he.
Today I was gathering the roses for the altar when I saw a scraggly little thing poking up from the mulch, where I remembered planting the mint. It looked like a newborn colt, weak and wrinkled. I pinched off a leaf and crushed it - mint. No - MINT! That was the strongest mint smell I had encountered.
I was not entirely surprised, because Mountain Mint has a reputation for being aggressive. The large mulched area preserves moisture and promotes soil microbes and earthworms, so I often get super-weeds bursting through for a taste of freedom, sunlight, and fresh air.
Mountain Mint Herb and Food Use, Medicinal Properties
Mountain-mint is edible and medicinal, raw or cooked the flower buds and leaves are edible and have a hot, spicy, mint-like flavor that makes a great spice or seasoning for meat. The fresh or dried leaves are brewed into a refreshing mint-like medicinal herb tea that is alterative (for that run down feeling), analgesic, antiseptic, diaphoretic, carminative, emmenagogue and tonic. The medicinal tea is used in alternative medicine in the treatment of menstrual disorders, indigestion, mouth sores and gum disease, colic, coughs, colds, chills and fevers. A strong decoction is medicinal poured over festering wounds. Crushed flowers are placed on tooth ache and almost instantly kills pain. Very aromatic the herb is used in potpourri or burned as incense. Placed in a muslin bag it can be used as bath additive, and is said to be very soothing to irritated skin. Will freshen laundry when used in the dryer. Thrown in a drawer or trunk it will not only freshen clothing and blankets, but keep moths away. Sprinkle on carpets to freshen the whole house and is said to be a good natural insecticide, the plant does repel insects and is good for use in the garden. Crushed flowers are rubbed on clothing to repel insects.
Caution: Not for use by pregnant women, may be harmful to fetus.
What is the best native plant to attract many different types of beneficial insects? I live in CT.
Beneficial insects come in many different shapes and sizes, and are active at different times of year. So, the best approach is to plant many different species of regional native plants timed to bloom throughout the growing season. There really is no single plant that will do it all. Having said that, any plant in the Pycnanthemum genus (Mountain Mint) is a great choice to include in your landscape.
The abundant nectar of Mountain Mints attracts a dizzying array of insects. Mountain Mints draws bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, ants, flies and beetles. I cannot think of another plant genus that attracts such a diversity of insects. I have seen some extraordinarily large predatory wasps on Mountain Mints – not to worry, though, these wasps are highly effective predators of many insect pests.
Mountain Mints are square stemmed with opposite leaves. Some have very broad foliage and some have quite narrow leaves. The plants are strongly scented and as a result, deer and other herbivores tend to avoid them. It’s a good defensive strategy to plant Mountain Mint around plants which deer like to browse.
Some plants, like Broad-leaved Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) prefer moist soil, and some, like Slender Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) thrive in dryer soils. Although some Pycnanthemum species are vigorous growers, most do well at minding their manners in the garden. Of the four different species I have grown, not one has been a “thug” in my garden.
There are approximately 20 species of Mountain Mints that are native to North America. These are the ones that I usually see available for sale in the Northeast:
Pycnanthemum tenuifolium (Slender Mountain Mint)
Pycnanthemum muticum (Broad-leaved Mountain Mint)
Pycnanthemum virginianum (Common Mountain Mint)
Pycnanthemum incanum (Hoary Mountain Mint)
Pycnanthemum flexusosum (Appalachian Mountain Mint)
I encourage you to add some of these plants to your landscape – you will be supporting a great variety of pollinators and beneficial insects.
Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!