Balms, Savouries & Allies

Common Calamint Summer Savory Gypsywort Basil-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 similar to those of the mints and thymes in not having the hooded appearance of other labiates, but the three lower lobes form a larger lip than the two upper ones. 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.



Basil-thyme     Clinopodium acinos

A frequent plant on chalky soils in Breckland but scarce elsewhere and declining. Flowers May to September. A tiny, annual species, growing to no more than 20cm in height and often much less. Strongly aromatic, with violet flowers in whorls of up to eight in the leaf axils.

Basil-thyme Basil-thyme Basil-thyme Basil-thyme
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Wild Basil     Clinopodium vulgare

Widespread in undeveloped grassland on alkaline soils. Flowers July to September. An aromatic, clump-forming perennial with whorls of pink flowers in the leaf axils.

Wild Basil Wild Basil Wild Basil Wild Basil
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Common Calamint     Clinopodium ascendens

Widespread but nowhere common, most often on grassy banks, roadsides and very occasionally on walls. Flowers July to September. An aromatic, clump-forming perennial with pale, relatively large flowers in open whorls towards the top of the plant. Although the calyxes are bristly, they do not have a clear tuft of white hairs protruding from them, which distinguishes this species easily from the less common Lesser Calamint.

Common Calamint Common Calamint Common Calamint Common Calamint
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Lesser Calamint     Clinopodium calamintha

A rare species in Norfolk, occurring only around Castle Acre but fairly widespread in the Stour valley, along the Suffolk/Essex border. Flowers July to September. Rather similar to the more widespread Common Calamint, but has hairier, grey-green foliage. After flowering, white hairs can clearly be seen, protruding from the mouth of the empty calyx.

Lesser Calamint Lesser Calamint Lesser Calamint Lesser Calamint
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Winter Savory     Satureja montana

Introduced from southern Europe as a culinary herb and garden ornamental, once found on waste ground in Norfolk. Flowers July to September. A woody-based, perennial subshrub that eventually forms low mounds. Differs from the calamints in its calyx teeth which are all more or less the same length, as well as in its much narrower leaves.

Winter Savory Winter Savory Winter Savory Winter Savory
Habit
Flower and calyx
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Summer Savory     Satureja hortensis

Introduced from southern Europe as a culinary herb and garden ornamental, and recorded in Cambridgeshire. Flowers July to September. A woody-based, perennial subshrub that eventually forms low mounds. Very similar to Winter Savory, but this species is a non-woody annual and has shorter, broader calyx teeth.

Summer Savory Summer Savory Summer Savory Summer Savory
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Flower and calyx
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Lemon Balm     Melissa officinalis

Introduced from southern Europe as a culinary herb and garden ornamental and now well established as a persistent perennial of roadsides, waste ground and urban areas, where it commonly grows from walls and pavement cracks. Flowers August to September. Forms spreading patches of dense, deeply-veined and crinkled leaves.

Lemon Balm Lemon Balm Lemon Balm
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Gypsywort     Lycopus europaeus

A widespread and common native of wet places. Flowers June to September. A tall, upright plant of watery places, often forming dense tangles of stems by the end of the season. Easily recognised by its deeply-toothed leaves and tight whorls of tiny, white flowers.

Gypsywort Gypsywort Gypsywort Gypsywort
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