Thursday, August 5, 2021

Mountain Mint Mania


            Gardening in Brown County Indiana is certainly proving to be different than my previous 30 plus years of gardening in Kentucky.  However I am slowly adjusting to the challenge and learning to watch and listen to the wild life around me. Nature is supplying me with the clues for what to grow and she lets me know when I have committed errors (sometimes not so gently). 

            In Kentucky, I planted and researched what to plant for my bees, butterflies and other pollinators. On these 165 untouched acres Nature blesses me with the gift of so many natives and then begs me to put my resources into attacking the non-native invasive growth. The more invasive plants I remove the more wildflower gifts emerge. 

            A perfect example has been the abundance of Hoary Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum incanum) on all the back trails.  We even have nicknamed one trail Mountain Mint Alley as the perfumed beauty lines the trail as it winds through the woods and open spaces. Its abundance in the woods certainly indicates that it is deer resistant. 

            What amazes me the most about this beautiful herb, is the diversity of wildlife that seems to swarm to this plant. It is covered with a wide variety all things pollinating from several different Swallowtail Butterflies to many varieties of native bees, honey bees, bumble bees, to various other butterflies. It seems not one blossom goes to waste. 

            I am fascinated with how the plant becomes tipped with a white hue on the upper leaves, as if a gentle snow fall or frost has glazed the plant. It seems in the wild to grow about 3 to 6 feet tall and has a terminal flower as it's hat.  The flower is a very tight cluster of pinkish to lavender hints inside. So fitting since the genus name is derived from the Greek word for "dense and flower".  The blooms seem to last about 6 weeks. Most of my colonies thrive in sun to part shade, right along the edge of the woods. 

        I love to brush up against the leaves or crush one or two in my palm, as it smells of mint or bee balm. It is sometimes referred to as Wild Basil Mint. I would love to use the leaves to make a tea. I sure it would have me buzzing!



  I have added this to my meadows, where it behaves and does not seem to aggressively take over but this luscious wildflower's happy place seem to be in masses along the wood's edges. It is a true beauty of the woods and a friend to so many pollinators. 

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