Botanical Name: Pycnanthemum albescens
Common Name: Whiteleaf Mountain Mint
Description: Whiteleaf mountain mint is a very cool, and delicious smelling, perennial plant native to Florida.
Clusters of tiny, white/pink/purple, tubular flowers are encircled by a mass of velvety white, bract-like leaves July through September. Whiteleaf Mountain Mint has a strong minty sage-like fragrance and can be used in place of sage in cooking or in teas. It is a clump forming native perennial with an upright to rounded growth habit reaching 3-4′ tall. Is very heat and cold tolerant.
Despite its name it has little to do with mountains. I have no idea why the botanists decided to add that part to its common name.
It has opposite, decussate, simple, and slightly lanceolate leaves that have a powdery whitish sheen. It doesn’t take much to release its minty odor, just a light bruising on its whitish, slightly serrulate leaves will fill the air with that delightful minty smell. It stems from many fibrous roots with multiple stems from its base; the stems are also fuzzy.
Plant it in sun, part sun, or part shade areas of your garden. Likes to grow in a moist area of your garden, but adapts to a regular gardening situation. I wouldn’t put it in full all day sun with very dry soil though. Will grow in sandy, loamy, or clay soils.
The flowers have special value to native bees, bumble bees, and honey bees, along with other pollinators. The plant also attracts beneficial bugs that eat the bad bugs, so add it to your Integrated Pest Management list. Is deer and pest resistant.
Information on this plant is limited as its presence in the wild declines due to invasive species. When describing this plant, it is important to use its scientific name as the common name mountain mint can refer to many other species in the same genus. Ultimately, whiteleaf mountain mint has seen steady declines in some of its native range, but it is a plant that’s worth keeping around, and finding it growing in the native is always a pleasant surprise rewarded with a minty smell or a fresh herb.
This plant in 1-gallon containers is 1-1.5′ tall.
Plant Lore: Pycnanthemum means dense flower and albescens means white pubescence. It was first recorded by John Torrey and Asa Gray in 1841.
Florida Hardiness Zones 8 – 9