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Species Spotlight – Blephilia hirsuta var. hirsuta

Blephilia hirsuta var. hirsuta

Tall, colony-forming, pollinator-friendly, edible, native mint. Excellent in every way.

Blephilia hirsuta var. hirsuta, or hairy pagoda-plant, is a very attractive and useful plant in the landscape, although much under-used.  Midwestern strains tend to be shorter and deeper shades of pink while the more easterly strains can be tall, up to 3-4′ and sport a bright white color.  Height and color are probably mixed across their range, but this is our general observation.

Blephilia hirsuta shares the same root structure and colony-forming habit of Monarda didyma and Monarda clinopodia.  In fact, the very first name for the Blephilia was Monarda hirsuta, given its hairy nature.  But the flower morphology is very clearly Blephilia.

The patch growing in the pictures was found on a roadside cut, in full sun, on (not in) deep forest duff over a seep.  It’s lateral roots running around the top of the leaf litter like any good mint, putting down vertical roots no more than 3″ deep.  This patch extended over 300-400 feet.  Curiously, there were no Monarda didyma growing amongst the Blephilia hirsuta, but the Monarda were ever-present on the other side of the road and all around.  So, clearly, there is some environmental factor that clearly favors the Blephilia but excludes the Monarda.  Given that Blephilia can range so far West and North, our hypothesis is that the loose leaf litter dries out in the heat of the summer just long enough to exclude the Monarda didyma, but not so much as to damage the Blephilia colony; all other factors seemed about the same between the two species.

One of the nicest features of Blephilia hirsuta is the bright, clean minty fragrance.  Many of our native mints are minty, more or less, but none so pure as this Blephilia.  Plus, on a sunny day, the fragrance moves with the breeze so you can enjoy from at least a few feet away.  An excellent tea can surely be made from the dried leaves.

The pictured colony was heavily visited by large pollinators, mostly bees.

Blephilia hirsuta var. hirsuta USDA range map.

 

All plant images © 2012-2017 ArcheWild.

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