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( Pycnanthemum pycnanthemoides )
Mountain Mint, taken on January 13, 2005.
Photo Credit: Mike Strickland
When other plants are gasping in the heat of late July, Mountain Mint takes center stage with its tall white-tipped leaf stems which are easily seen from a distance. The whitening of the tips beginning as early as late June is often the first eye-catcher along roadsides with continued whitening through the month. The flower buds with a pinkish tinge become more evident on up-close encounters as the months progress. This native is mostly found in the partial shade of woods and clearings in the southeast. In the home garden, it will grow well at the edge of a shade area and also in mostly sun if kept moist. Because of the height of the stems at full flowering, 4-5' in sun, you might consider a tomato cage or other supporting device to help keep the stems erect during summer rains and wind. Mountain Mint is aromatic and the leaves make a tasty tea. Bees visit the flowers in honey-making runs and butterflies also enjoy the nectar. Although in the mint family, Mountain Mint is not as invasive as the culinary mints. An herbaceous perennial, the leaves drop in late fall leaving the seedpod atop the stem but the plant's leaves make an early return from root in January. These early leaves will benefit from a quick Fall tree leaf removal allowing sunlight to this early winter growth. To make the area tidy for winter, you may want to break or cut the stems once the new growth begins. Consider leaving the stems for winter interest and as "perches". This plant spreads by seeds and by runners. As your "patch" becomes larger than you wish, move a portion to a different area of your yard to further delight your eyes, your nose, the bees, and the butterflies.