This page reviews three common mints that are likely to be encountered by most people who are visitors to the habitat they tenant. Mints belong to the Labiatae {Lamiaceae} family of plants which includes species such as Marjoram {oregano} , wild clary and already featured on this site hedge woundwort and selfheal.

Corn mint, Mentha arvensis

photograph by Dal

Corn mint

The first of our three subjects under review is the corn mint. Walking through summer meadows redolent with summer flowers you can easily miss this species which blends in with other vegetation, especially so, before its flowers appear. It is a native species here and in most of Europe and Asia. The genus Mentha includes members of the mint family that have the distinct familiar aroma of mint.

Unusually, the corn mint does not give any evidence of this aromatic aroma until the leaves are crushed which then releases the strong smell associated with mint.



Description of corn mint

This species is a relatively small member of the mint family. it only attains the height of 10-30 cm rarely attaining the latter size.

The flowering stems produce leaves in opposite pairs 2-6.5 cm long and 1-2 cm broad.  They are hairy and coarsely toothed along their margins. The leaves are short stalked oval in form and pointed at the tips. There is a strong smell of mint when crushed. There is a small tuft of leaves at the top of the flowering stem. The stems are green and hairy.

The flowers are produced in tight whorls around the stem.

photograph by Dal

Flowers of the corn mint.

The flowers of the corn mint are of a pale /purple or lilac colour {occasionally white or pink}. They are produced in clustered whorls {rings} around the hairy stems. each individual flower is  3-4 mm long.{less than a quarter of an inch}. The stamens protrude. The flower whorls are spaced out along the stem. They tend to be larger and more vigorous lower down the stem than towards the top. 

The calyx is bell shaped and hairy with short triangular teeth.

They flower from July until September. It may also be encountered in woodland clearings and on arable land. On arable land it can become a pest. 

WATER MINT,Mentha acquatica.

photograph by Dal

The water mint.

Now we review the commonest of all the wild mints Mentha acquatica-the water mint. This aromatic perennial  has the characteristic mint aroma, especially so when the foliage is crushed.

The stems of this plant are almost hairless or softly so. The stems produce leaves that are short stalked, oval, toothed with 4-6 arched lateral veins.

The flowers are stalked at the end of the stem or in the axils of the upper leaves in fairly dense clustered whorls. Calyx is tubular 4mm long and is five lobed.

The corolla 5-7mm long with a ring of hairs in the tube and 4 even corolla lobes. Four stamens protrude outside the corolla.

They may be encountered in flower from July until October, where they may be encountered in wet meadows, banks, wet woodland, marshes and in the margins of ditches and ponds. This plant is common throughout the British Isles, most of Europe, most of Asia and north and south Africa. 

Spearmint Mentha spicatica

Finally we come across the spearmint which is commonly cultivated in gardens from which it escapes to become established in the wild on roadside verges and on waste ground. It was introduced from central Europe as a kitchen herb.

Spearmint is a common cultivated plant

photograph by Dal


The square stems arise from the creeping root stock, they grow erect to about the height of 60cm {2ft} which bear leaves that are very short stalked and end in an acute point at their tips. The leaves are lance shaped,wrinkled, bright green with finely toothed margins, they have smooth surfaces. The veins are prominent especially on the underside.

Flowering stems stick out like branches from the upper parts of the stem. The small flowers are densely packed arranged in whorls around the stem, in the axils of the upper leaves, forming cylindrical,slender,tapering spikes.They are of a lilac colour. The stamens protrude beyond the petals These tiny flowers are succeeded by a very few,roundish minute brown seeds. 

Foliage of spearmint in varying stages of growth. Note the prominent veins.

photographs by Dal

Medicinal uses of---Spearmint, water mint, horse mint and peppermint.

The leaves have been infused to make teas which aid digestion and unblock the nasal passage, the latter especially so when used in a vapour form.

The foliage has also been utilized to treat catarrh, colds , flu, headache,migraine, fever, flatulence, bloating, colic and nausea.

An infusion of water mint and /or peppermint  in the dose of 1 teaspoonful in 250 ml of boiling water for ten minutes. Drink one cup as required, to relieve digestive disorders, flatulence and nausea.

Should one be inclined to use mints in herbal medicine for the first time please read WILD  HERB ADVISE by clicking on the banner at the right hand side of this page. 

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