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Family: Lamiaceae

Kingdom: Plantae Rank: Family Parent: Lamiales Status: Valid

Common Names:

  • MINT FAMILY - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Family Recognition in the Field: Usually aromatic herbs or shrubs with square stems and opposite leaves; corollas sympetalous, 2-lipped; stamens 4 (in 2 sets) or 2; ovary usually 4-lobed, with a basal style; fruits usually of 4 one-seeded nutlets. Similar families can be distinguished as follows: Boraginaceae have alternate leaves and radially symmetrical corollas; Verbenaceae have the style usually terminal on the ovary; Scrophulariaceae have an unlobed ovary and many-seeded fruits.

Diagnosis: Annual or perennial, often aromatic herbs or shrubs; stems square; leaves opposite, simple, entire, toothed, or lobed; flowers axillary or terminal, solitary or in whorls, spikes, racemes, panicles, or small heads; calyces 2- to 5-toothed or -lobed; corollas usually bilaterally symmetrical, commonly 2-lipped; stamens 2 or 4, attached to the corolla tube; pistil 1, 2-carpellate, deeply 4-lobed; ovary superior; style 1, simple or 2-branched apically; fruit usually of 4 one-seeded nutlets.


Notes: A large (6,700 species in 252 genera), cosmopolitan, but especially Mediterranean to c Asian family of mostly herbs or small shrubs including many ornamentals (e.g., Salvia-SAGE, Solenostemon-COLEUS) and numerous aromatic herbs including Lavendula (LAVENDER), Mentha (MINT), Nepeta (CATNIP), Ocimum (BASIL), Origanum (MARJORAM and OREGANO), Rosmarinus (ROSEMARY), Salvia (SAGE), and Thymus (THYME); many species have also been used medicinally. Often there are short-stalked epidermal glands containing volatile essential oils giving rise to characteristic aromas. The family is related to the Verbenaceae. Judd et al. (1994) argued that as traditionally circumscribed, the Verbenaceae are paraphyletic and the Lamiaceae polyphyletic; taxa traditionally recognized as MINTS seem to be derived independently from a number of different Verbenaceae clades. They indicated that in order for the families to be monophyletic, the Verbenaceae should be restricted to the Verbenoideae (those taxa with racemose or spicate inflorescences), while the Lamiaceae should be expanded to include most of the Verbenaceae. However, recent molecular studies (Wagstaff & Olmstead 1997) do not support the monophyly of a clade composed of Lamiaceae sensu lato and Verbenaceae sensu stricto. Until the phylogeny of this group is more clearly resolved, we are treating these families in the traditional manner. (subclass Asteridae).