Sunday, 6 September 2015

Minty

Two members of the Mint family are in evidence around the waterside at Straw's Bridge. One is unmistakably member of the mints. Water Mint (Mentha aquatica) is a rather hirsute plant and when you rub or pick the leaves, they give off a strong, minty fragrance.
Growing in large clumps, the stems - which are square in cross section - all seem to be topped by a rounded inflorescence of pale purple flowers, much loved by bees, hoverflies and almost any other insects. It also makes a good a nice bit of late summer colour.
Close by, we found a distant relative of the Water Mint growing tall and lush with its feet in the water. This is called Gypsywort (Lycopus europaeus).
Like its cousin, this too has a square stem, but it is not as hairy and the flowers are found in whorls along the stem's length.
The name is thought to come from the idea that Romani Gypsies used the sap from this plant as a dye for their clothing. It has also been used for many medicinal purposes including as an astringent and narcotic.  Both members of the Mint family or Lamiaceae, the Gypsywort hasn't that 'minty freshness' of the Water Mint, but they are both rather delightful in their own ways.
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