Mentha × wirtgeniana
Mentha × rubra Sm.
Mentha × smithiana R.A.Graham
Common Name: Red Raripila Mint
Mentha × wirtgeniana is a perennial plant that can grow up to 1.00 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
The plant is occasionally cultivated in western and central European gardens (Germany, Austria, N Italy, Great Britain) as an aromatic plant. The plants have the typical "bergamotte" smell, though the content of essential oil in the plant is relatively low[
Although no records of toxicity have been seen for this species, large quantities of some members of this genus, especially when taken in the form of the extracted essential oil, can cause abortions so some caution is advised.
Central and southern Europe - Britain to Poland, south to France, Italy and Romania
|Pollinators||Bees, Lepidoptera, Insects
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
Mentha × wirtgeniana is a moderately cold-hardy plant, able to tolerate temperatures down to around -20°c when fully dormant[
A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in most soils and situations so long as the soil is not too dry[
]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. A sunny position is best for production of essential oils, but it also succeeds in partial shade[
]. Prefers partial shade and a slightly acid soil[
This species is a hybrid involving Mentha aquatica x Mentha arvensis x Mentha spicata[
]. It has sweetly mint-scented leaves with similar culinary uses to Mentha spicata.
Mentha species are very prone to hybridisation and so the seed cannot be relied on to breed true. Even without hybridisation, seedlings will often not be uniform and so the content of medicinal oils etc will vary. When growing plants with a particular aroma it is best to propagate them by division[
Most mints have fairly aggressive spreading roots and, unless you have the space to let them roam, they need to be restrained by some means such as planting them in containers that are buried in the soil[
Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus.
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
Leaves - raw or cooked. Used as a flavouring in salads or cooked foods. The sweetly scented leaves can be used in the same ways as spearmint[
]. A good culinary mint, the leaves have an attractive red tinge[
A herb tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves[
]. It has a very pleasant and refreshing taste of spearmint, leaving the mouth and digestive system feeling clean[
An essential oil from the leaves and flowers is used as a flavouring in sweets, ice cream, drinks etc[[
Red raripila mint, like many other members of this genus, is often used as a domestic herbal remedy, being valued especially for its antiseptic properties and its beneficial effect on the digestion. Like other members of the genus, it is best not used by pregnant women because large doses can cause an abortion. A tea made from the leaves of most mint species has traditionally been used in the treatment of fevers, headaches, digestive disorders and various minor ailments[
The leaves are harvested as the plant comes into flower and can be dried for later use[
The essential oil in the leaves is antiseptic, though it is toxic in large doses[
Mint species are usually good bee and butterfly attractant plants, supplying them with good quality pollen and nectar[
Mints are usually quite aromatic plants and they make good companions for cabbages and tomatoes, their aromatic nature helping to repel insect pests..
An essential oil is obtained from the whole plant.
Rats and mice intensely dislike the smell of mint. Members of the genus have therefore often been used in homes as strewing herbs and have also been spread in granaries to keep rodents off the stored grain[
Seed - this hybrid is usually sterile, and even if seed is produced it will not breed true[
]. If you do obtain seed, then it can be sown in spring in a cold frame. Germination is usually fairly quick. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer.
Division can be easily carried out at almost any time of the year, though it is probably best done in the spring or autumn to allow the plant to establish more quickly. Virtually any part of the root is capable of growing into a new plant. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. However, for maximum increase it is possible to divide the roots up into sections no more than 3cm long and pot these up in light shade in a cold frame. They will quickly become established and can be planted out in the summer.