Flower of the Day: Narrow-Leaved Mountain Mint

Pycnanthmum tenuifolium; Lamiaceae (mint family)

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I’d been keeping my eye on this plant for weeks, watching the buds develop. When I finally saw a few of the flowers open, I set up the tripod and spent at least half an hour trying to get good pictures.  The plants were in the open, but on a partly cloudy day with a fair breeze.  As soon as I thought I had the camera set up for the light, the breeze would set the plants moving.  And whenever the breeze stopped, the light had changed.

So I went back seven days later, expecting the plants to be in full bloom.  And guess what I found: nothing.  Nothing except a lot of dead plants, because some overly enthusiastic trail maintenance people had come along and mowed the whole patch down (there were other native plants there, too).  And it wasn’t necessary.  This was along a rocky bluff, and the plants were on a ledge a few feet off the trail proper.  This area, with a huge diversity of plants, has been subjected to multiple floods this year, and it shows: there are fewer plants, and those that survived are stunted or in poor condition, and some have been missing altogether.  And now this happens.

I’m just livid.  This is the only stand of narrow-leaved mountain mint I’ve ever seen, and now it is utterly gone.  Thankfully it’s a perennial, so it should be back next year.

The flowers you see in the picture above are so tiny that the purple dots are invisible to the naked eye.  Here’s a picture of several flower clusters, each of which is about fingernail sized:

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The abundant, dark green linear leaves give the plant a fine-textured appearance:

20140613-DSC_0166-1It would be a lovely addition to a native plant garden.

Pycnanthemum species can be found throughout the eastern US and Canada; seven species occur in Maryland.  I have my eye on another one in bud.  It might be hoary mountain mint.

 

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