DixPix Photographs



  Flora:  the MINT FAMILY  


The Mint Family is known as Lamiaceae or sometimes Labiatae, the Latin jargon for the well known floral group that provides many or our cherished herbs and garden flowers.  The southern Cordillera is not a center of concentration for the mints, but some species have naturalized after being imported from Europe, and a few others are native, or even endemic.  There are thought to be about 7000 mint species on earth, divided into roughly 250 genera.  Hint- most mints can be identified by square stems.  The Spanish word for mint in Menta, but the plants tend to be called Salvia.


In the imported category, let's start with Spearmint (Mentha spicata) which is a European that was widely planted as a flavoring and for imagined medicinal purposes.  It has found a home in western Argentina. Click to see big picture (455x480 pixels; 71 KB)
Pennyroyal is one of the many names Mentha pulegium uses in its home range of Eurasia.  It is appreciated for its aroma, and is now scattered around the world, but it is actually poisonous should you be tempted to take a bite.  Here in Chile it is known as Menta Poleo.
This is known as White Sage, directly translating as Salvia Blanca (Lepechinia salviae), which despite the English name seems to be native to central Chile.  Sphacele salviae in some quarters. Click to see big picture (640x366 pixels; 99 KB)

Here are the more isolated and deserving flowers of White Sage, as seen at the UBC Botanical Gardens. 

Click to see big picture (565x480 pixels; 101 KB)
Ranging from central to southern Chile there is another of this genus with the tongue-twisting name of Alhuelahuen ( Lepechinia chamaedryoides).  This may be different from the coastal species being shown under the same name. Click to see big picture (457x480 pixels; 71 KB)
Another view of Alhuelahuen (or Algue-lahuen) from the Teno drainage of Chile. Although now assigned to the genus Lepechinia, it has long been known as Sphacele chamaedryoides, and many still place it in this genus. Click to see big picture (511x480 pixels; 87 KB)
Another transplanted European is the White or Common Horehound (Marrubium vulgare).  In Latin America it is known by several names, including Toronjil Cuyano. Click to see big picture (399x480 pixels; 86 KB)
With names such as Self Heal and Heal All (Prunella vulgaris), it is no surprise that this low weed with a medicinal reputation was planted in temperate zones around the world.  It is rather invasive, check your lawn or flower bed.  The local name is Hierba Mora. Click to see big picture (529x480 pixels; 72 KB)
A closer view of Self Heal, and a white-flower version of the same. Click to see big picture (633x480 pixels; 109 KB)
A mint from the Coastal Ranges of Peru called Muña (Minthostachys spicata) approx.  The oil derived from this plant  is of interest for fragrance and other uses. Click to see big picture (640x478 pixels; 127 KB)
The African Lion's Ear (Leonotis nepetifolia) has invaded west central Peru.  This shows a photo from above Trujillo, with a close-up of the flower from its native range. lion ear
The genus Stachys presents a handsome group of mints which have a concentration in central Chile and adjacent Argentina.  Taxonomy is messy. With a mottled flower, hairy stem, sesile leaves and a low altitude this is likely Stachys albicaulis, but there are several Stachys in the region so no guarantees.  Click to see big picture (270x480 pixels; 46 KB)
White flowers and an alpine habitat suggest Stachys grandidentata.  Much confusion with North American species, not to mention that these two examples don't look all that similar. Click to see big picture (496x480 pixels; 75 KB)
The local names for the Stachys genus are many, including Hierba Santa, Toronjilcillo and Oreganillo.  I am calling this one from near the Argentina border Stachys philippiana, sometimes locally named Oreganillo del Cordillera. Click to see big picture (555x480 pixels; 73 KB)
And this example with reddish bracts and more even coloring is close to what one would expect from Stachys gilliesii, found over the central Andes of both Chile and Argentina. Click to see big picture (324x480 pixels; 56 KB)
Another, rather different flower called Oreganillo locally, is the attractive bush from central and south Chile Teucrium bicolor. Click to see big picture (604x480 pixels; 116 KB)
Here is a closer look at the flowers, which are indeed bi-colored.  The sexual organs sort of arc over top in the open. Click to see big picture (611x480 pixels; 98 KB)
An all-white version of Teucrium from the Parral area, of more-or-less southern Chile. Click to see big picture (225x480 pixels; 50 KB)
They call it Maestranto, the latin name Salvia Scutellarioides being unpronounceable, but identified thanks to U.Berkely Bot.Gardens.  Found from Columbia to Peru, this herb is used in folk medicine as a diuretic, and to lower blood pressure.  Salvias are usually called sages. Click to see big picture (609x480 pixels; 84 KB)
A bushy blue sage from northwestern Argentina, likely Salvia meyeri.  The Salvia are the flag-bearers of the mint family in gardening, but their native habitat is centered more in Mexico than in the Southern Cordillera. Click to see big picture (430x480 pixels; 119 KB)
Again from northwestern Argentina, this appears to be Salvia stachydiflora.   That species name suggests that the 'folia'=leaves are similar to the the above-mentioned Stachys genus.  Looks like a good match.  Click to see big picture (246x480 pixels; 42 KB)
Salvia sagittata "arrow-leaved sage" graces the Andes of Ecuador and Peru, but in this case graces Berkeley, California at their Botanical Gardens. Click to see big picture (448x480 pixels; 84 KB)
Enough blue.  From northern Peru, Salvia oppositiflora, a red flowered mint  which is used in some Quechua ceremonies to represent the blood of Christ. Click to see big picture (257x480 pixels; 74 KB)