Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Labiatae

Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

Ground Ivy, Creeping Charlie, or Gill-Over-the-Ground, is a foreign invader, and for grass purists it’s a hated broadleaf weed. It is, however, easy to get along with. It smells minty fresh when you mow it, and it produces these stunningly beautiful flowers in the spring. This colony was growing in a lawn in Mount Lebanon, where it was blooming in late May.

The pictures in this particular article have been donated to Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. No permission is needed to use them for any purpose.

Gray places this in the genus Nepeta:

NEPETA L. CAT MINT. Calyx tubular, often incurved. Corolla dilated in the throat; the upper lip erect, rather concave, notched or 2-cleft; the lower 3-cleft, the middle lobe largest, either 2-lobed or entire. —Perennial herbs. (The Latin name, thought to be derived from Nepete, an Etruscan city.)

N. hederacea (L.) Trevisan. (GROUND IVY, GILL-OVER-THE-GROUND.) Creeping and trailing; leaves petioled, round-kidney-shaped, crenate, green both sides; corolla thrice the length of the calyx, light blue. (Glecoma L.; Glechoma Benth.) Damp or shady places, near towns—May-July. (Nat. from Eu.)


Bee-Balm (Monarda didyma)

Monarda-didyma-2013-07-14-North-Park-02

Monarda-didyma-2013-07-14-North-Park-01Also called Bergamot, Oswego-tea, and several other names.

Monarda is a fascinating example of parallel evolution: it makes a display by clustering small ray-like flowers together in one head so closely that the head is often taken for a single flower. In other  words, it adopts the method of the Compositae. This particular species is bright red, which is a very attractive color to hummingbirds. It is otherwise very similar to Wild Bergamot (M. fistulosa), which is rather more common around here.

This is a native perennial, but much used as an ornamental planting, so that it is difficult to distinguish truly wild populations from garden escapes. These plants are probably truly wild; both grew in North Park, where they were blooming in the middle of July. The species is very adaptable to different light conditions: one of these plants was growing in full sun,and the other deep in the woods where a fallen tree had opened up the sky just a bit.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

MONÁRDA L. HORSE MINT. Calyx 15-nerved, usually hairy in the throat. Corolla elongated, with a slightly expanded throat; lips linear or oblong, somewhat equal, the upper erect, entire or slightly notched, the lower spreading, 3-lobed at the apex, its lateral lobes ovate and obtuse, the middle one narrower and slightly notched. Stamens elongated, ascending, inserted in the throat of the corolla. — Odorous erect herbs, with entire or toothed leaves, and large attractive flowers in a few verticels closely surrounded by bracts. (Dedicated to Nicolás Monardes, author of many tracts upon medicinal and other useful plants, especially those of the New World, in the latter half of the 16th century.)

Stamens and style exserted beyond the linear straight acute upper lip of the corolla; heads solitary and terminal or sometimes 2 or 3; leaves acutely more or less serrate; perennials.

Leaves petioled; calyx-teeth scarcely longer than the width of the tube.

Glabrous or villous.

Calyx smooth or smoothish in the throat.

M. didyma L. (Oswego Tea, Bee Balm.) Stem somewhat hairy, 2 m. or less high, acutely 4-angled; leaves ovate-lanceolate, acuminate, the floral ones and the large outer bracts tinged with red; calyx smoothlsh, nearly naked in the throat; corolla smooth or minutely pubescent, 4-5 cm. long, bright red, showy. — Moist woods, by streams, w. Que., Out., and south w. July, Aug.


Yellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolon)

Lamium-galeobdolon-2013-05-08-Fox-Chapel-01A European plant often cultivated here as a ground cover, but increasingly escaping into the wild. This plant was growing deep in the woods in Fox Chapel, on a hillside overlooking the Squaw Run, far from any cultivated planting. It is also commonly placed in the genus Lamiastrum, or “False Lamium.” So it is classified in the USDA PLANTS database, which records it as found in the wild in Pennsylvania. This particular plant, which shows the variegated leaves often found in cultivated varieties, was blooming in early May.

Gray describes the genus Lamium thus:

LAMIUM L. DEAD NETTLE. Calyx tubular-bell-shaped, about 5-nerved, with 5 nearly equal awl-pointed teeth. Corolla dilated at the throat; upper lip ovate or oblong, arched, narrowed at the base; the middle lobe of the spreading lower lip broad, notched at the apex, contracted as if stalked at the base; the lateral ones small, at the margin of the throat. Decumbent herbs, the lowest leaves small and long-petioled, the middle heart-shaped and doubly toothed, the floral subtending the whorled flower-cluster. (Name from lamos, throat, in allusion to the ringent corolla.)

This species is not described in the standard American botanical references, so we borrow a very thorough description from English Botany by James Sowerby.

LAMIUM GALEOBDOLON. Crantz.

Galeobdolon luteum, Ends. Sm. Engl. Bot. ed. i. No. 787. Koch, Syn. Fl. Germ. et Helv. ed. ii. p. 650. Galeopsis Galeobdolon, Linn. Sp. Pl. p. 810.

Perennial. Rootstock tufted or very shortly creeping. Barren shoots very long, trailing or arching, at length rooting. Flowering stems not rooting at the base, erect or ascending. Leaves stalked, ovate or deltoid-ovate, subcordate, slightly acuminate, acute, doubly or irregularly crenate-serrate. Verticillasters remote from each other. Lower bracts similar to the leaves, but narrower, and with shorter stalks; upper ones generally lanceolate, with a wedge-shaped base, more rarely similar to the lower ones. Calyx puberulent or sparingly bristly-hairy; teeth deltoid, abruptly acuminated into triangular points, sparingly ciliated or glabrous, and subspinous at the apex, spreading, not half the length of the tube; tube slightly curved and oblique at the mouth. Corolla tube rather longer than the calyx, with a conspicuous very oblique ring of hairs within, slightly curved upwards, without a projecting sac near the base on the lower side, suddenly enlarged towards the apex; upper hp greatly vaulted, obtuse, sparingly hairy; lower lip with the lateral lobes ovate-acuminate, the middle lobe a little larger, oblong, acuminated into a lanceolate point.

In woods and on hedge-banks, particularly on chalk and limestone formations. Local, but not uncommon in the south of England; rare in the north, where it extends north to Lancashire and Yorkshire. It has occurred in Scotland, but is scarcely deserving to be considered even as a naturalised plant. Rare, and very local in Ireland, where it is nearly confined to the east of the island.

England, [Scotland,] Ireland. Perennial. Spring, early Summer.

Rootstock many-headed, emitting numerous wiry radical fibres and producing flowering and barren stems, the latter in autumn attaining the length of 1 or 2 feet, and growing much in the same way as those of Vinca major. Flowering stems 9 inches to 2 feet high, more or less flexuous towards the base. Lamina of the leaves 1 to 2½ inches long. Verticillasters 6 to 10 flowered. Bracts 1½ to 3 inches long, the upper ones sometimes very narrow. Calyx yellowish-green. Corolla ¾ to 1 inch long, yellow, the lower lip bright yellow, with reddish-brown s pots and streaks; upper lip considerably more than half the length of the corolla; tube very short. Anthers destitute of the hairs which occur in all the other British species. Nucules generally abortive: at least I have never been able to find them mature. Plant light green, more or less thickly pubescent with rather stiff hairs, those on the stem deflexed.

The British plant has the upper bracts usually narrow, and is the Galeobdolon montanum of Reichenbach. Occasionally, however, I have seen the bracts all broad and similar to the leaves (G. luteum, Reich.), but the two forms certainly do not deserve to be called even varieties.

Yellow Archangel.
French, Lamier jaune. German, Goldnessel.


Horse Balm (Collinsonia canadensis)

A big, sloppy mint that likes to grow in the deep woods, with huge leaves (by mint-family standards) and panicles of bizarre yellowish flowers with long projecting stamens. The flowers look like little dragons, and well repay a close look, perhaps with a glass. Only a few of the flowers are open at any one time; the rest are either still in bud or shriveling on the stem, adding to the general appearance of slovenliness. The scent is like cheap artificial lemon perfume. The flowers above were blooming in Scott Township at the end of August; the ones below in the woods near Normalville in the middle of August.

Gray describes the genus (which has only one species in our area) and the species.

COLLINSÒNIA L. HORSE BALM. Calyx ovoid, enlarged and declined in fruit, 2-lipped; upper lip truncate and flattened, 3-toothed, the lower 2-cleft. Corolla elongated, expanded at the throat, somewhat 2-lipped, the tube with a bearded ring within; the 4 upper lobes nearly equal, but the lower much larger and longer, pendent, toothed or lacerate-fringed. Stamens 2 (sometimes 4, the upper pair shorter), much exserted, diverging; anther-cells divergent. — Strong-scented perennials, with large ovate leaves, and yellowish flowers on slender pedicels. (Named in honor of Peter Collinson, early English botanist.)

С. canadensis L. (RICH-WEED, STONE-ROOT.) Nearly smooth, 5-10 dm. high; leaves serrate, pointed, petioled, 1-2 dm. long; panicle loose; corolla 1.5 cm. long, lemon-scented; stamens 2.—Rich moist woods, w. Que. to Wise., s. to Fla. and Mo. July-Sept.


Wild Basil (Satureja vulgaris)

A hairy and aromatic little mint that likes open woods, and is not above popping up in a shaded lawn, as this one did near Normalville. It’s a close relative of Summer and Winter Savory. The flowers are a delightfully pure shade of pink, hard to reproduce exactly in a photograph.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

SATURÈJA [Tourn.] L. SAVORY, CALAMINT. Calyx tubular to bell-shaped, 10-13-nerved, naked or hairy in the throat. Corolla with a straight tube and an inflated throat, distinctly 2-lipped; the upper lip erect, flattish, entire or notched; the lower spreading, 3-parted, the middle lobe usually largest. Stamens 4, somewhat ascending. — Herbs or shrubs, with mostly purplish or whitish flowers produced all summer; inflorescence various. (The ancient Latin name.) Including Clinopodium L., Calamintha Lam.

Flowers in sessile dense many-flowered clusters, and involucrate with conspicuous setaceous-subulate bracts; calyx nearly naked in the throat.

6. S. vulgàris (L.) Fritsch. (basil.) Hairy, erect, 2-6 dm. high; leaves ovate, petioled, nearly entire; flowers lavender to pink, in globular clusters; hairy bracts as long as the calyx. (Clinopodium L.; Calamintha Clinopodium Benth.) —Woods, thickets, and alluvial banks, Nfd. to Va., О., Ind., and Man. (Eurasia.)


Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina)

The fleshy soft, hairy leaves delight children and any adult not too far gone to take pleasure in simple tactile sensations. The purple flowers make a gorgeous contrast to the whitish hairs of the leaves and stems, but appear only for a relatively short time. This is a garden favorite that seeds itself liberally: once you plant Lamb’s Ears, you have them forever, and they pop up in unexpected places. They can often be found in the city as an escape; these plants were growing on a bank in Beechview, where they were blooming in the middle of May.

Gray describes the genus Stachys; in his time, this particular species had not established itself in the wild enough for him to take notice of it.

STÂCHYS [Tourn.] L. HEDGE NETTLE. Corolla not dilated at the throat; upper lip erect or rather spreading, often arched, entire or nearly so; the lower usually longer and spreading, 3-lobed, with the middle lobe largest and nearly entire. Stamens 4, ascending under the upper lip (often reflexed on the throat after flowering); anthers approximate in pairs. Nutlets obtuse, not truncate. — Whorls 2-many-flowered, approximate in a terminal raceme or spike (whence the name, from stachys, a spike).

Although Gray does not describe the species S. byzantina, no description is really necessary. No other Stachys in our area has anything like the silver-haired foliage of this plant; it is nearly impossible to misidentify.


Purple Giant Hyssop (Agastache scrophulariifolia)

Spelled A. scrophilariaefolia in Gray. Not a terribly common plant around here; this patch was growing in a clearing in Scott, where it was blooming in late August. The flowers are irresistibly attractive to butterflies. The leaves have a noticeable anise scent, not as strong as but very much like the scent of its more commonly cultivated cousin, Anise Hyssop (A. foeniculum). The two species are very similar; the most obvious difference is in the length of the flower spikes, which in A foeniculum are usually not much longer than your thumb, but in this species can easily exceed your longest finger.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

AGÁSTACHE Clayt. GIANT HYSSOP. Calyx tubular-bell-shaped, 15-nerved, oblique, 5-toothed, the upper teeth rather longer than the others. Upper lip of corolla nearly erect, 2-lobed, the lower 3-cleft, with the middle lobe crenate. Stamens 4, exserted; the upper pair declined, the lower and shorter pair ascending, so that the pairs cross; anther-cells nearly parallel. —Perennial tall herbs, with petioled serrate leaves, and small flowers crowded in interrupted terminal spikes in summer. (From agan, much, and stachys, an ear of corn, in reference to the numerous spikes.) Lophanthus Benth., in part.

A. scrophulariaefòlia (Willd.) Ktze. Stem (obtusely 4-angled) and lower surface of the ovate or somewhat heart-shaped acute leaves slightly pubescent: spikes 0.6-5 dm. long; calyx-teeth lanceolate, acute, shorter than the purplish corolla; otherwise like the preceding [A. nepetoides]. (Lophanthus Benth.)—N. H. to Out., Mo., Ky., and Va. Var. Mollis (Fernald) Heller. Stems and lower surfaces of leaves densely villous. — Vt. and Ct. to Ill.

[Because Gray's description of this species refers to his description of A. nepetoides, here is that description: 

A. nepetoides (L.) Ktze. Stem stout, 0.7-1.5 m. high, sharply 4-angled, smooth or nearly so; leaves ovate, somewhat pointed, coarsely crenate-toothed, 6-12 cm. long; spikes 3-12 cm. long, crowded with the ovate pointed bracts; calyx-teeth ovate, rather obtuse, little shorter than the pale greenish-yellow corolla. (Lophanthus Benth.) — Borders of woods, e. Mass., Vt., and w. Que. to Minn., and southw.]

The famous naturalist William Bartram found this species in New Jersey near Philadelphia, and reported it as Hyssopus scrophularifolius in his Copendium Florae Philadelphicae:

H. spikes verticillatc, cylindric; styles longer than the corolla; leaves cordate-ovate, acuminate, obtusely dentate.—Wilhl. and Pursh.

Agastache, Gronovius, Fl. Virg. 88.
Icon. Herm. parad. t. 106.

A very rare plant, easily known from the preceding [Agastache nepetoides]. From fourteen inches to two feet high. Flowers purple. On the banks of the Delaware, Jersey side, on the walk from Kaighn’s point to the next ferry below, close to a shady thicket. Perennial. July.


Peppermint (Mentha × piperita)

Peppermint is apparently a hybrid between Spearmint (Mentha spicata) and Watermint (Mentha aquatica). If nothing else, the scent and flavor of the leaves are enough to identify the plant. It shows a strong preference for damp locations, although it will grow almost anywhere you plant it. It seldom produces viable seed, but it nevertheless makes a nuisance of itself in some parts of the country. Around here it is only an occasional tasty volunteer. This colony was growing in a wet depression beside a tributary of Wexford Run, where it was blooming in early September.

Linnaeus described this plant as a species, M. piperita; the × in Mentha × piperita denotes that the universal judgment of modern botanists identifies it as a hybrid. Gray’s description:

MÉNTHA [Tourn.] L. MINT. Calyx Ьеll-shaped or tubular, the 5 teeth equal or nearly so. Corolla with a short included tube, the upper lobe slightly broader, entire or notched. Stamens 4, equal, erect, distant. — Odorous perennial herbs; the small flowers mostly in close clusters, forming axillary capitate whorls, sometimes approximated in interrupted spikes, produced in summer, of two sorts as to the fertility of the stamens in most species. Corolla pale purple or whitish. Species mostly adventive or naturalized from Europe, with many hybrids. (Minthe of Theophrastus, from a Nymph of that name, fabled to have been changed Into Mint by Proserpine.)

M. piperìta L. (PEPPERMINT.) Glabrous, very pungent-tasted; leaves ovate-oblong to oblong-lanceolate, acute, sharply serrate; spikes becoming loose; calyx glabrous below, the teeth hirsute. — Along brooks, frequent. (Nat. from Eu.)


Apple Mint (Mentha suaveolens)

A strong and flavorful mint, similar in scent and taste to Spearmint (M. spicata). The flower spikes are the most distinguishing feature: flowers bloom in dense cylindrical spikes, like green fingers, rather than the looser interrupted spikes of Spearmint. Apple Mint grows in sunny waste places; this patch was growing on a weedy bank next to a softball field in Beechview, where it was blooming in the middle of August.

Gray lists this species as Mentha rotundifolia:

MÉNTHA [Tourn.] L. Mint. Calyx Ьеll-shaped or tubular, the 5 teeth equal or nearly so. Corolla with a short included tube, the upper lobe slightly broader, entire or notched. Stamens 4, equal, erect, distant. — Odorous perennial herbs; the small flowers mostly in close clusters, forming axillary capitate whorls, sometimes approximated in interrupted spikes, produced in summer, of two sorts as to the fertility of the stamens in most species. Corolla pale purple or whitish. Species mostly adventive or naturalized from Europe, with many hybrids. (Minthe of Theophrastus, from a Nymph of that name, fabled to have been changed Into Mint by Proserpine.)

Spikes narrow and leafless, densely crowded; leaves sessile or nearly so.

Spikes not canescent.

M. rotundifòlia (L.) Huds. Soft-hairy or downy; leaves broadly elliptical to round-ovate and somewhat heart-shaped, rugose, coarsely crenate-toothed; spikes slender. — At a few stations, Me. to O., Fla., and Tex. (Nat. from Eu.)


Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)

Also known as False Dragonhead, referring to its resemblance to a snapdragon. The name “Obedient Plant” describes a property that fascinates children, and any adults who are not too jaded to admit to being fascinated. If you push one of the individual flowers to the left or right, it will stay in that position. You can arrange all the flowers artistically on the stem, and they will stay right where you put them. You might almost think the plant had been specially bred by lazy florists. This plant was part of a large patch blooming in late July in a wet depression in Schenley Park.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

PHYSOSTEGIA Benth. FALSE DRAGON HEAD. Calyx obscurely 10-nerved, short-tubular or bell-shaped, more or less enlarged and slightly inflated in fruit. Corolla funnel-form, with a much inflated throat, 2-lipped; upper lip erect, nearly entire; the lower 3-parted, spreading, small, its middle lobe larger, broad and rounded, notched. — Smooth perennials, with upright wand-like stems, and sessile lanceolate or oblong mostly serrate leaves. Flowers large and showy, rose or flesh-color variegated with purple, opposite, crowded in simple or panicled terminal leafless spikes. (Name from physa, a bladder, and stege, a covering, in allusion to the calyx, which is at length somewhat inflated.)

• Stem conspicuously leafy up to the inflorescence.

P. virginiàna (L.) Benth. Stem 0.6-1.3 m. high, terminated by asimple virgate spike or several panicled spikes ; leaves thickish, mostly sharply serrate; calyx tubular-campanulate, its teeth half the length of the tube, acuminate, at length acerosetipped; corolla 1.8-2.3 cm. long. — Wet grounds, from w. Que. westw. and southw.; frequently escaped from cultivation in e. N. E. June-Sept.

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In her Guide to the Wild Flowers (1899), Alice Lounsberry gives us this description:

Flowers: growing closely in a dense spike on axillary flower-stalks. Calyx ; bell-shaped, of five-toothed sepals. Corolla: funnel-form; inflated; two-lipped, the upper lip arched and broad; the lower one of three spreading lobes, the centre lobe pale and dotted with a deep colour. Stamens: four; in pairs. Pistil: one; style two-lobed. Leaves: opposite; lanceolate; serrated. Stem: square; one to four feet high; slightly branched.

When a little fish comes to the surface of the water and opens his mouth his expression is not unlike that of these flowers. They have, however, none of the darting, evasive tendencies of the fish. The flower is most docile. Strangely enough, it appears to be without any elasticity, and will remain in exactly the position in which it is placed for an indefinite time. From this characteristic the plant quite carries off the palm of obedience among the flowers.


Spearmint (Mentha spicata)

You could look at spearmint as an invasive wed, but it gives us so much in return for the space it takes that it’s a hard weed to resent. Spearmint spreads mainly by runners, forming large, dense patches. Its scent and flavor are recognizable at once. It blooms with pleasant spikes of little white flowers that were attracting little green flies when this picture was taken. This plant was part of a large patch blooming in late July in Beechview.

Flowers. In terminal spikes;  white with pink lines especially on upper lip; in whorls of a dozen or more; stamens twice the length of the corolla.

Leaves. Sessile; ovate-lanceolate, deeply veined, looking wrinkled; toothed, about 2 and a half or 3 times as long as broad.

Stems. Square, about 3 feet tall, wiry, often branching near the flower spike. Long underground or at-surface stems from which upright stems rise at rooting joints.

The whole plant is, of course, strongly aromatic, and its aroma and flavor are its most identifiable characteristics.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

MENTHA [Tourn.] L. MINT. Calyx Ьеll-shaped or tubular, the 5 teeth equal or nearly so. Corolla with a short included tube, the upper lobe slightly broader, entire or notched. Stamens 4, equal, erect, distant. — Odorous perennial herbs ; the small flowers mostly in close clusters, forming axillary capitate whorls, sometimes approximated in interrupted spikes, produced in summer, of two sorts as to the fertility of the stamens in most species. Corolla pale purple or whitish. Species mostly adventive or naturalized from Europe, with many hybrids. (Minthe of Theophrastus, from a Nymph of that name, fabled to have been changed Into Mint by Proserpine.)

Spikes narrow and leafless, densely crowded; leaves sessile or nearly so.

Spikes not canescent.

M. spicata L. (SPEARMINT.) Nearly smooth; leaves oblong-or ovate-lanceolate, unequally serrate, sometimes short-petioled; bracts linear-lanceolate and subulate, conspicuous. (M. viridis L.) — Wet places, common. (Nat. from Eu.)


Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Nepeta catariaThis is probably your cat’s favorite herb, but it seems to have almost the same intensely euphoric effect on little white butterflies, to judge by the swirling masses of them that were visiting this plant. It was blooming in late July at the edge of an overgrown gravel drive in Scott Township. A tisane can be made from the leaves, but your cat will probably drink it before you get a chance at it.

Nepeta cataria is the only species commonly found in the wild around here. In Gray, the genus Glechoma is also included in Nepeta.

NÉPETA L. CAT MINT. Calyx tubular, often incurved. Corolla dilated in the throat; the upper lip erect, rather concave, notched or 2-cleft ; the lower 3-cleft, the middle lobe largest, either 2-lobed or entire. —Perennial herbs. (The Latin name, thought to be derived from Nepete, an Etruscan city.)

§ 1. CATARIA [Tourn.] Reiohenb. Cymose clusters rather dense and many-flowered, forming interrupted spikes or racemes; upper floral leaves small and bract-like.

N. catària L. (catnip.) Downy, erect, branched; leaves heart-shaped, oblong, deeply crenate, whitish-downy underneath; corolla whitish, dotted with purple. — Near dwellings; a common weed. July-Sept. (Nat. from Eu.)

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In his Field Book of American Wild Flowers, F. Schuyler Mathews becomes uncharacteristically personal in describing this plant:

Nepeta cataria. An exceedingly common weed to which many of the animals of the tribe Felis are greatly attached. A favorite Manx cat of mine would walk a mile every other day or so, from my Campton studio to a spot where it grew in plenty, notwithstanding the way was through the woods and over a hill of no small difficulty! The stem is densely downy as well as the deeply round-toothed leaves, and both are sage green in color. The pale lilac or lilac-white and spotted flowers are also downy, and gathered in small terminal clusters, which are rarely 4 inches long. Leaves strongly aromatic. 2-3 feet high. Common everywhere. Naturalized from Europe.

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In Wild Flowers East of the Rockies (1910), Chester Albert Reed gives us a little more of the lore of Catnip:

CATNIP (Nepeta cataria) (EUROPEAN) is a very common mint, introduced from Europe, the aromatic foliage of which has a very peculiar attraction for all members of the feline race. It apparently has an intoxicating effect upon them; after eating the leaves they will roll about on them for a long time. It also formerly was used for making Catnip tea, a one-time remedy for most of the ills of childhood. The plant has a stout, square hollow stem from 2 to 3 feet tall and is downy, as are the sage green, toothed leaves. The lilac-white flowers are clustered on peduncles from the axils of the leaves. Catnip is common throughout our range.


Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)

Easily distinguished from anything similar by the foamy appearance of the flowers, which have puffy tufts of hair on their upper lips. “Motherwort” is so named because it was used by herbalists for what have traditionally been called “female difficulties.” This plant was part of a large stand at the edge of a dense thicket in Beechview, whre it was blooming in the middle of July.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

LEONÙRUS L. MOTHERWORT. Calyx 5-nerved, with 5 nearly equal teeth. Upper lip of the corolla oblong and entire, somewhat arched; the lower spreading, 3-lobed, its middle lobe larger, narrowly oblong-obovate, entire, the lateral ones oblong. — Upright herbs, with cut-lobed leaves, and close whorls of flowers in their axils; in summer. (Name from leon, a lion, and oura, tail, i.e. Lion’s-tail.)

L. cardìaca L. (COMMON M.) Tall perennial; leaves long-petioled, tbe lower rounded, palmately lobed, the floral wedge-shaped at base, subentire or 3-clefl, the lobes lanceolate; upper lip of the pale purple corolla bearded. — Waste places, around dwellings. (Nat. from Eu.)


Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Sometimes called just “balm,” as it was in older times; we moderns like to multiply syllables. A delightful lemon-flavored mint often planted in herb gardens, from which it immediately begins plotting its escape. Unlike Spearmint, which spreads by runners, Lemon Balm seeds itself everywhere, and the little seeds can easily wash downhill a considerable distance from the planting site. Once you have lemon balm, you have it forever, and in the most unexpected places. It also pops up in vacant lots and other unmowed areas. When Gray says “sparingly escaped from gardens,” it shows us that he never tried growing the stuff.

The lemon scent and fuzzy stem and leaves are characteristic. Little white flowers appear in rows of bracts, and bes love them; in fact, the generic name means “bee” in Greek. This plant grew spontaneously at the edge of a yard in Beechview, where it was blooming in early July.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

MELÍSSA [Tourn.] L. Balm

Calyx with the upper lip flattened and 3-toothed, the lower 2-cleft. Corolla with a recurved-ascending tube. Stamens 4, curved and conniving under the upper lip. Otherwise nearly as Satureja. — Clusters few-flowered, loose, onesided, with few and mostly ovate bracts resembling the leaves. (Name from Melissa, a bee; the flowers yielding abundance of honey.)

M. officinalis L. (COMMON В.) Upright, branching, perennial, pubescent; leaves broadly ovate, crenate-toothed, lemon-scented ; corolla nearly white. — Sparingly escaped from gardens. (Introd. from Eu.)


Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

A native plant so popular in gardens that it may as easily be a garden escape as a properly wild plant. This large colony was growing in a hillside clearing in Scott Township where the ground had been recently disturbed; the flowers were blooming in early July.

MONÁRDA L. HORSE MINT. Calyx 15-nerved, usually hairy in the throat. Corolla elongated, with a slightly expanded throat; lips linear or oblong, somewhat equal, the upper erect, entire or slightly notched, the lower spreading, 3-lobed at the apex, its lateral lobes ovate and obtuse, the middle one narrower and slightly notched. Stamens elongated, ascending, inserted in the throat of the corolla. — Odorous erect herbs, with entire or toothed leaves, and large attractive flowers in a few verticels closely surrounded by bracts. (Dedicated to Nicolás Monardes, author of many tracts upon medicinal and other useful plants, especially those of the New World, in the latter half of the 16th century.)

Stamens and style exserted beyond the linear straight acute upper lip of the corolla; heads solitary and terminal or sometimes 2 or 3; leaves acutely more or less serrate; perennials.

Leaves petioled; calyx-teeth scarcely longer than the width of the tube.

++ Glabrous or villous.

Calyx smooth or smoothish in the throat.

M. fistulosa L. (WILD BERGAMOT.) Branches more or less villous or hirsute, 0.5-1.5 m. high; leaves ovate-lanceolate, pubescent especially beneath, the uppermost and outer bracts somewhat colored (whitish or purplish); calyz slightly curved, very hairy in the throat; corolla 2.5-1 cm. long, lilac or pink, the upper lip very hairy. — Dry soil, N. E. to Col. and Tex.; often cultivated and mostly introd. northeastw. Var. Rubra Gray. Stem smooth; corolla bright crimson or rose-red; habit of no. 1, but upper lip of corolla villous-bearded on the back at tip ; throat of calyx with the outer bristly hairs widely spreading. (M. media Willd.)—Me. to Ont. and Tenn.; mostly introd. northw. July, Aug.



Wood Sage (Teucrium canadense)

A stately member of the mint family, whose straight and tall spikes would not be out of place in a formal perennial garden. This plant was one of a large colony growing in a hillside clearing in Scott Township, where they were blooming in early July.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

TEÙCRIUM [Tourn.] L. Germander

Calyx 5-toothed. Corolla with the 4 upper lobes nearly equal, oblong, turned forward, so that there seems to be no upper lip; the lower lobe much larger. Stamens 4, exserted from the deep cleft between the 2 upper lobes of the corolla; anther-cells confluent. (Named for Teucer, king of Troy.)

Perennials; leaves merely dentate or serrate; inflorescences terminal, spiciform.

+ Inflorescence cylindric; calyx densely pubescent.

T. canadénse L. (American G., Wood Sage.) Stems 1 m. or less high, appressed-pubescent, simple or branched; leaves lanceolate to ovate, serrate, 2.6-5 cm. broad, rounded or narrowed at base, ehort-petioled, hoary beneath, green and glabrous or sparingly appressed-pubescent but scarcely papillose above; whorls about 6-flowered, crowded in long and simple wand-like racemes; calyx canescent-pannose, the 3 upper lobes very obtuse, or the middle one acutish; corolla 1.6-2 cm. long, purplish, pink, or sometimes cream-color. — Rich low ground, N. E. to Neb., and southw. July-Sept.


Bugles (Ajuga reptans)

The common blue form of this popular groundcover; there is also a much rarer lavender form. This one was blooming in early May at the edge of the woods in Mount Lebanon.

Although Gray says this species is “smooth or but slightly pubescent,” this particular plant looks rather fuzzy up on the flower stalk. The similar Ajuga genevensis is supposed to be a hairier species, but it lacks the creeping stolons characteristic of Ajuga reptans, and this plant was stoloning up a storm. We therefore identify it as a slightly fuzzier-than-average Ajuga reptans.

AJUGA L. BUGLE WEED

Calyx 5-toothed. The large and spreading lower lip of the corolla with the middle lobe emarginate or 2-cleft. Stamens as in Teucrium, but anther- cells less confluent. (From a- privative, and xygon, Latin jugum, yoke, from the seeming absence of a yoke-fellow to the lower lip of the corolla.)

A. reptans L. Perennial, 1-2.5 dm. high, smooth or but slightly pubescent, with copious creeping stolons; leaves obovate or spatulate, sometimes sinuate, the cauline sessile, the floral approximate, subtending several sessile blue flowers. Locally in fields, Me. and Que. to s. N. V. May-July. (Nat. from Eu.)


Bugles (Ajuga reptans)

Also called Bugleweed, a name it shares with Lycopus virginicus. This is a popular groundcover at garden centers, usually in varieties with bronze or variegated leaves. The original green-leaved version is thoroughly naturalized here; it persists in old plantings for decades, but it also pops up on its own, especially at the edge of an open woodland. The flowers are normally blue, but there is an uncommon lavender form, as we see in this stand in Beechview.

AJUGA L. BUGLE WEED
Calyx 5-toothed. The large and spreading lower lip of the corolla with the middle lobe emarginate or 2-cleft. Stamens as in Teucrium, but anther- cells less confluent. (From a- privative, and xygon, Latin jugum, yoke, from the seeming absence of a yoke-fellow to the lower lip of the corolla.)

A. reptans L. Perennial, 1-2.5 dm. high, smooth or but slightly pubescent, with copious creeping stolons; leaves obovate or spatulate, sometimes sinuate, the cauline sessile, the floral approximate, subtending several sessile blue flowers. Locally in fields, Me. and Que. to s. N. V. May-July. (Nat. from Eu.)


Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum)

This beautiful little flower grows everywhere along the street in the city. It starts blooming quite early, and by the end of April is in full flower, as these plants were in a slightly weedy patch by the street in Beechview. The whole plant is tiny, and the flowers would be inconspicuous, except that the upper leaves are various shades of purple or dark pink, setting off the pale pink flowers beautifully.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

LAMIUM L. DEAD NETTLE

Calyx tubular-bell-shaped, about 5-nerved, with 5 nearly equal awl-pointed teeth. Corolla dilated at the throat; upper lip ovate or oblong, arched, narrowed at the base; the middle lobe of the spreading lower lip broad, notched at the apex, contracted as if stalked at the base; the lateral ones small, at the margin of the throat. Decumbent herbs, the lowest leaves small and long-petioled, the middle heart-shaped and doubly toothed, the floral subtending the whorled flower-cluster. (Name from lamos, throat, in allusion to the ringent corolla.)

* Annuals or biennials, low; flowers small, purplish, at most 1.5 cm. long.

L. PURPUREUM L. Leaves roundish or oblong, heart-shaped, crenate-toothed, all petioled. N. E. to N. C. Apr., May. (Nat. from Eu.)


Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

Ground Ivy, or Gill-Over-the-Ground, is the nemesis of every suburban homeowner who prizes purity in his lawn. For more tolerant types, it’s a friendly little plant. It never grows very tall; it has pretty blue flowers; and it makes your whole lawn smell minty when you mow it. This colony was growing in a lawn in Mount Lebanon, where it was blooming in late April.

Gray places this in the genus Nepeta:

NEPETA L. CAT MINT
Calyx tubular, often incurved. Corolla dilated in the throat; the upper lip erect, rather concave, notched or 2-cleft; the lower 3-cleft, the middle lobe largest, either 2-lobed or entire. —Perennial herbs. (The Latin name, thought to be derived from Nepete, an Etruscan city.)

N. hederacea (L.) Trevisan. (GROUND IVY, GILL-OVER-THE-GROUND.) Creeping and trailing; leaves petioled, round-kidney-shaped, crenate, green both sides; corolla thrice the length of the calyx, light blue. (Glecoma L.; Glechoma Benth.) Damp or shady places, near towns—May-July. (Nat. from Eu.)


Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus)

2009-09-13-Lycopus-virginicus-01

Bugleweed is common at the edges of ponds, often dangling over the water. Here we see it framed by the clouds reflected in a pond in the Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville.


Spearmint (Mentha spicata)

2009-09-12-Mentha-spicata-01

Spearmint is especially common in urban yards and vacant lots, where it often escapes from cultivation. The prison isn’t built that can hold spearmint, which can be very invasive once you have it. But it’s such a useful herb that its sloppy manners are easy to forgive.


Heal-All (Prunella vulgaris)

Prunella-vulgaris-02a

If it lived up to its name, it would be priceless. Heal-all grows at the edge of the woods, or in your lawn, or anywhere else it can find space. It’s a very common weed, but surprisingly beautiful close up. This specimen grew in Bird Park in Mount Lebanon.


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