Thymes & Mints

Spear Mint Common Thyme Common Marjoram Breckland Thyme

What are they?

These species are all members of the Lamiaceae, the Labiate family. This group of plants are all highly aromatic in all their parts. Their flowers are rather different to those of most other labiates in having four, more or less equal petal lobes, without the 'hooded', enlarged upper lip of other labiates. The majority of these plants are well-known for their use as culinary herbs.

Where are they found?

These are mostly plants of open heaths and areas of short grass. Some species are non-native and occur as garden escapes, so may turn up on roadsides and waste places in urban areas.

Identification

Separating some of these species can be difficult and sometimes requires careful attention to details. With the thymes, it pays to check the arrangement of the hairs on the square-sided stems, while the mints can be problematic due to the high incidence of hybrids in this group.



Water Mint     Mentha aquatica

Widespread in wetland habitats. Flowers July to October. A strongly aromatic species with a rich, minty smell. Flowers in tight clusters in the upper leaf axils towards the top of the plant, with a rounded cluster topping the main stem.

Water Mint Water Mint Water Mint
Habit
Habit
Leaf


Corn Mint     Mentha arvensis

Widespread in damp soil on the edges of grassy tracks and fields. Flowers June to October. A strongly aromatic species with a rich, minty smell. Flowers in tight clusters in the leaf axils, with the stems topped with small leaves, not flowers.

Corn Mint Corn Mint Corn Mint Corn Mint
Habit
Flowers
Calyx
Leaves


Apple Mint     Mentha x villosa

A hybrid species, grown commercially and occasionally found spreading from dumped garden waste. Flowers August to September. A spreading plant with rounded leaves and a sweet, minty or spearmint aroma. Flowers pale pink in long, sometimes branched, terminal spikes. The teeth on the leaf edges are not strongly down-turned, giving the leaves a sharply-serrated edge.

Apple Mint Apple Mint Apple Mint
Habit
Leaf
Leaf edge


Round-leaved Mint     Mentha suaveolens

A rare native in SW England but only a casual escape from cultivation in East Anglia. Flowers August to September. A spreading plant with rounded leaves and a rather sickly-sweet aroma. Flowers white in long, usually branched, terminal spikes. The teeth on the leaf edges are strongly down-turned, giving the leaves the appearance of having rounded lobes along the margins when viewed from above.

Round-leaved Mint Round-leaved Mint Round-leaved Mint Round-leaved Mint
Habit
Flowers
Leaves
Leaf


Spear Mint     Mentha spicata

Very popular and widely grown as a garden herb and frequent escaping onto waste ground and roadsides. Flowers August to September. A rather agressive, spreading perennial plant, smelling strongly of spearmint. Leaves hairless, lance-shaped, with sharply-toothed margins. Flowers pink or white, in elongate spikes.

Spear Mint Spear Mint Spear Mint Spear Mint
Habit
Flowers
Leaves
Leaf


Pennyroyal     Mentha pulegium

Once native, this species has been long lost from the region due to draining of its favoured habitat of seasonaly-flooded grasslands. Uncommon as a garden plant but occasionally found as a garden escape. Flowers August to September. A low, creeping species with the flowers borne in whorls in the leaf axils on upright stems. Leaves small, ovate.

Pennyroyal Pennyroyal Pennyroyal Pennyroyal
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Flowers and Leaf


Corsican Mint     Mentha requienii

Introduced from southern Europe as a garden ornamental and found twice as an escape from cultivation in Suffolk. Flowers June to August. A minuscule plant with leaves no more than 5mm long and tiny flowers carried in clusters of six or less. Looks rather more like a low, creeping thyme than a mint.

Corsican Mint Corsican Mint Corsican Mint
Habit
Flowers
Calyxes and Leaves


Common Marjoram     Origanum vulgare

A native of thin, chalky soils, thinly scattered in suitable habitat but can be quite common in suitable habitat on old banks and commons. Flowers July to September. An upright, clump-forming species with a rich, herby smell. Pale pink flowers appear in flattened heads among reddish bracts.

Common Marjoram Common Marjoram Common Marjoram Common Marjoram
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Leaf


Large Thyme     Thymus pulegioides

A species of short-grazed grassland on usually chalky soils; common in Breckland but rare and scattered elsewhere. Flowers July to August. A wiry subshrub with a strong thyme smell. The flowerheads tend to be a little larger than those of other thymes, but it is best told by the stems, which have long hairs only on the corners and short down on just two of the four sides.

Large Thyme Large Thyme Large Thyme Large Thyme
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Stem


Wild Thyme     Thymus polytrichus

A species of short-grazed grassland on chalky soils. Most frequent in Breckland but rare and scattered elsewhere. Flowers June to August. A wiry subshrub with a strong thyme smell. Best told from other thymes by the stems, which have dense hairs on two sides of the stem and no hairs on the other two sides.

Wild Thyme Wild Thyme
Habit
Stem


Breckland Thyme     Thymus serpyllum

A rare native, in the UK confined to Breckland in Norfolk and Suffolk. Flowers July to August. A creeping subshrub with a lemon-thyme smell. Very showy when in flower, but it is best told by the stems, which are less four-angled than on Wild and Large Thyme and are equally hairy on all sides.

Breckland Thyme Breckland Thyme Breckland Thyme
Habit
Flowers
Stem


Common Thyme     Thymus vulgaris

Introduced from the Mediterranean region as a culinary herb and twice recorded in Norfolk as a garden escape. Flowers July to August. A wiry-stemmed perennial, usually more upright than our native thymes. The whole plant has a grey-green look and the stems are rounded and roughly downy. The leaves have distinctly down-turned margins.

Common Thyme Common Thyme Common Thyme Common Thyme
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Stem