Description & Overview

Mountain Mint is a Wisconsin native perennial found in the southern two-thirds of the state in moist thickets, swamps, moist meadows, and prairies. All parts of the plant are aromatic, smelling of mint, true to the group to which it belongs. This fragrant perennial has an upright habit and sports many clusters of small white flowers. Mountain Mint is a pollinator powerhouse with a long bloom time, providing nourishment throughout the seasons.

You may also know this plant as Virginian Mountain Mint.

Core Characteristics

Category: Perennial

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 2-3 feet

Mature Spread: 2-5 feet

Growth Rate: Moderate

Growth Form: Upright, spreading

Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade

Site Requirements: Average to wet soils

Flower: White, terminal umbel-like cluster, 5-parted, ¼" long, speckled with tiny purple dots.

Bloom Period: July – September

Foliage: Linear, green, short hairs on stem

Fall Color: Yellow

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: 4 black seeds per flower

Suggested Uses

A native of mesic to wet prairies, Common Mountain Mint will leave your prairie restoration buzzing with pollinators. Its aromatic leaves will keep those deer away from your new plantings.

Mountain Mint performs best when it receives full sun. In too much shade they can become leggy and rather unruly looking.

The long bloom time benefits many pollinators throughout their life stages making it a great addition to any native garden. Tolerance to wet conditions and some drought also make this a choice plant for rain gardens and bioswales.

The aromatic stems and foliage hold up well in fresh and dried floral arrangements.

Mountain Mint is a Wisconsin native perennial found in the southern two-thirds of the state in moist thickets, swamps, moist meadows, and prairies. Al…

Wildlife Value

The tubular-lipped flowers are very attractive for a variety of insects and are definitely what we consider “pollinator friendly.” Nectar is secreted at the base of the flower, and while the insect reaches for the nectar, pollen is deposited on its head, aiding in cross-pollination. Common visitors include the Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus), Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia), Delaware Skipper (Anatrytone logan), Orange Mint Moth (Pyrausta orphisalis), Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos), Wedge-shaped Beetles (Macrosiagon spp.), Soldier Flies (Odontomyia spp.), Syrphid Flies (Syritta spp.), and ants (Formicidae spp.).

Most common pollinators are medium to large bees, such as Long-horned bees (Melissodes spp.) and Bumblebees (Bombus spp.). While bees aren’t necessarily attracted to white flowers, those tiny purple dots on the petals act as an effective signal to pollinators. The ‘lip’ of the flower acts as a landing pad for yellow-faced bees (Hylaeus spp.) and small resin bees (Heriades spp.) Other visitors include Mining bees (Andrena spp.), Small Carpenter Bees (Ceratina spp.), Cuckoo Bees (Coelioxys spp., Triepeolus spp., Sphecodes spp.), Sweat bees (Lasioglossum spp.), and Leafcutter Bees (Megachile spp.).

Mountain Mint blooms after most wasps have finished nest construction but they get hydration and food from the plant’s nectar. They also prey upon other visitors of Mountain Mint flowers. Wasp visitors include Paper Wasps (Polistes fuscatus), Great Golden Digger Wasps (Sphex ichneumoneus), Great Black Wasps (Sphex pensylvanicus), Cuckoo Wasps (Hedychrum spp.), Beewolves (Philanthus spp.), Potter Wasps (Eumenes spp.), Grass-carrying Wasps (Isodontia spp.), and Thynnid Wasps (Myzinum spp.).

Female Wedge-shaped beetles (Ripiphoridae spp.) lay their eggs on flowers. Once hatched, the larvae climb onto unsuspecting hosts and are carried back to the host’s nest. The beetle larvae burrow into the host and feed on their internal organs, thus killing the host.

Maintenance Tips

Mountain Mint thrives in full sun and while it can tolerate some shade, it can become leggy and unkempt looking.

To reduce stress, keep the soil consistently moist with plenty of air circulation. A generous layer of mulch will also help with soil moisture retention and protect the roots in winter.

If you have ever planted a mint then you know it spreads freely via stolons. Drier soils can reduce the rate of spread (though it may increase stress). Plants may need to be divided every couple of years to prevent overcrowding and overwhelming nearby plants.

Mountain Mint is a Wisconsin native perennial found in the southern two-thirds of the state in moist thickets, swamps, moist meadows, and prairies. Al…

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: Yes
Rabbit Resistant: Yes

Although less susceptible to powdery mildew than other members in the mint family, Mountain Mint may occasionally be affected if too stressed. Powdery mildew can be prevented by increasing air circulation (thinning plants when they become too crowded) and watering the base of the plants rather than overhead watering.

Leaf Lore

The genus Pycnanthemum is derived from the Greek word for ‘dense,’ and anthemon for ‘flower’ because the bloom of Mountain Mint is densely packed at the top of the stems. The specific epithet virginianum refers to where the plant was found.

The Meskwaki people historically used Mountain Mint to ease chills and as a simulant/rejuvinative, while the leaves were used to scent mink traps. Other medicinal uses included using parts of the plant as an expectorant and diaphoretic, as a cough suppressant, for nosebleeds, headaches, heart problems, and upset stomach, BRIT-Native American Ethnobotany Database

Mountain Mint can be used in salads, season meat, or dried for a refreshing mint-like tea.

Companion Plants

Other prairie plants would make excellent companion plants to Mountain Mint, including:
Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea), Prairie Blazingstar (Liatris pycnostachya), Sweet Coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa), Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), Hairy Penstemon (Penstemon hirsutus), Stiff Coreopsis (Coreopsis palmata), Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), and Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum).

If planning a bioswale or rain garden, plant alongside Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum), Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum), White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra), Meadow Anemone (Anemone canadensis), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Dense Blazingstar (Liatris spicata), Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Prairie Blazingstar (Liatris pycnostachya), and Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis).

Mountain Mint is a Wisconsin native perennial found in the southern two-thirds of the state in moist thickets, swamps, moist meadows, and prairies. Al…
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Written by Beth DeLain