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Common Name: Hart's Pennyroyal
Mentha cervina is a perennial plant that can grow up to 0.30 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
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.
Succeeds in most soils and situations so long as the soil is not too dry[
]. Prefers a slightly acid soil[
]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. A sunny position is best for production of essential oils, but it succeeds in partial shade.
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.
The leaves have a strong peppermint smell.
The flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies[
]. A good companion plant for growing near cabbages and tomatoes, helping to deter insect pests.
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
The leaves have a strong spearmint fragrance and can be used to make a herb tea[
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[
An essential oil is obtained from the whole plant.
Rats and mice intensely dislike the smell of mint. The plant was therefore used in homes as a strewing herb and has also been spread in granaries to keep the rodents off the grain[
Seed - sow 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. Mentha species are very prone to hybridisation and so the seed cannot be relied on to breed true. Even without hybridisation, seedlings will 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[
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.