Somehow, despite having a range of topics that I’m interested in writing about, the family Lamiaceae has weaseled its way into my life. You couldn’t possibly know this about me since it’s only the first blog post, but I went through a very particular phase with this family back in high school. Yes, you read that right. While everyone else was going through their scene phase, I was looking at plants. The family Lamiaceae is home to quite a few medicinal plants. Plant medicine is a subject I spent a lot of time with in high school, and plants in Lamiaceae tend to be particularly accessible plants. Think mints, rosemary, lavender, basil, thyme, oregano. All of these were readily available in the grocery store, which is important when you’re fifteen and want to try brewing a batch of herbal tea.
A small patch of T. canadense
I ran into yet another member of this family while I was out doing field work this past Friday. American Germander, also called wood sage, was growing on the edge of a prairie I work in. In Latin it’s known as Teucrium canadense, and it’s a very common wildflower in the US. It is a perennial that grows about two to three feet tall, has lanceolate, serrate leaves, and like all members of Lamiaceae, it has a square stem. It produces white to purple flowers during midsummer, as you can see in the photo I took of this patch.
Ideally, this plant like to grow in sunny, moist conditions, although being a mint it can tolerate being a little dried out as well. You can find it almost anywhere, including in prairies, on woodland edges, or even on roadsides. Most members of the mint family can tolerate a lot of abuse, which means whether you’ve got a green or black thumb, you could grow this plant. It would do well on the edges of a yard that needs a groundcover, anywhere where you’d like to draw pollinators, and I could also see it doing well mixed with grasses and other perennials in a native plant garden. Just know that if left to its own devices it might attempt a takeover of your garden.
This plant has also been used medicinally. According to the Peterson Field Guide to Central/Eastern Medicinal plants, American Germander is used as a diuretic. Unfortunately, this plant has also been linked to liver toxicity, so I would not recommend adding it to any batches of herbal tea. If you are in need of a diuretic, and you really want it to come from a plant, I would stick to dandelion. It’s just as common and much less likely to hurt your liver.
Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder
Peterson Field Guides: Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs