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Useful Temperate Plants

Mentha spicata

L.

Lamiaceae


The Temperate Database is in the process of being updated, with new records being added and old ones being checked and brought up to date where necessary. This record has not yet been checked and updated.

+ Synonyms

Common Name: Spearmint

No Image.

General Information

Mentha spicata is a perennial plant that can grow up to 0.60 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.

Known Hazards

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.

Botanical References

17
Title
Flora of the British Isles.
Publication
 
Author
Clapham, Tutin and Warburg.
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Year
1962
ISBN
-
Description
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

C. Europe. Naturalized in Britain.

Habitat

Roadsides and waste places, usually in damp soils and sunny positions[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
16
Title
New Vegetable Growers Handbook.
Publication
 
Author
Simons.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1977
ISBN
0-14-046-050-0
Description
A good guide to growing vegetables in temperate areas, not entirely organic.
,
17
Title
Flora of the British Isles.
Publication
 
Author
Clapham, Tutin and Warburg.
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Year
1962
ISBN
-
Description
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
,
37
Title
The Gardener's Assistant.
Publication
 
Author
Thompson. B.
Publisher
Blackie and Son.
Year
1878
ISBN
-
Description
Excellent general but extensive guide to gardening practices in the 19th century. A very good section on fruits and vegetables with many little known species.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *  *
HabitPerennial
Height0.60 m
PollinatorsBees
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in most soils and situations so long as the soil is not too dry[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. A sunny position is best for production of essential oils, but it also succeeds in partial shade[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
]. Prefers partial shade and a slightly acid soil[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
16
Title
New Vegetable Growers Handbook.
Publication
 
Author
Simons.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1977
ISBN
0-14-046-050-0
Description
A good guide to growing vegetables in temperate areas, not entirely organic.
].
Often grown as a culinary herb in the herb garden, spearmint is also commercially cultivated for its essential oil, the yields are about 3.5 to 4.5 kilos per tonne of leaves. There are some named varieties[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
,
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].
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[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus.
The whole plant has a strong spearmint smell.
The flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies[
24
Title
Making a Wildlife Garden.
Publication
 
Author
Baines. C.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Fairly good with lots of ideas about creating wildlife areas in the garden.
]. A good companion plant for growing near cabbages and tomatoes, helping to keep them free of insect pests[
14
Title
Complete Guide to Herbs.
Publication
 
Author
Holtom. J. and Hylton. W.
Publisher
Rodale Press
Year
1979
ISBN
0-87857-262-7
Description
A good herbal.
,
20
Title
Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.
Publication
 
Author
Riotte. L.
Publisher
Garden Way, Vermont, USA.
Year
1978
ISBN
0-88266-064-0
Description
Fairly good.
].
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
233
Title
Perennial Garden Plants
Publication
 
Author
Thomas. G. S.
Publisher
J. M. Dent & Sons, London.
Year
1990
ISBN
0 460 86048 8
Description
A concise guide to a wide range of perennials. Lots of cultivation guides, very little on plant uses.
].

Edible Uses

Leaves - raw or cooked. A strong spearmint flavour, they are used as a flavouring in salads or cooked foods[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
,
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
5
Title
Food for Free.
Publication
 
Author
Mabey. R.
Publisher
Collins
Year
1974
ISBN
0-00-219060-5
Description
Edible wild plants found in Britain. Fairly comprehensive, very few pictures and rather optimistic on the desirability of some of the plants.
,
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. The leaves are often used in 'mint sauce', which is used as a flavouring in meals[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].
A herb tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves[
21
Title
The Herb Book.
Publication
 
Author
Lust. J.
Publisher
Bantam books
Year
1983
ISBN
0-553-23827-2
Description
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
,
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. It has a very pleasant and refreshing taste of spearmint, leaving the mouth and digestive system feeling clean[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
An essential oil from the leaves and flowers is used as a flavouring in sweets, ice cream, drinks etc[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
57
Title
Plants for Man.
Publication
 
Author
Schery. R. W.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Fairly readable but not very comprehensive. Deals with plants from around the world.
,
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. A spearmint flavour[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
].

Medicinal

Spearmint is a commonly used domestic herbal remedy. A tea made from the leaves has traditionally been used in the treatment of fevers, headaches, digestive disorders and various minor ailments[
222
Title
A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Foster. S. & Duke. J. A.
Publisher
Houghton Mifflin Co.
Year
1990
ISBN
0395467225
Description
A concise book dealing with almost 500 species. A line drawing of each plant is included plus colour photographs of about 100 species. Very good as a field guide, it only gives brief details about the plants medicinal properties.
]. The herb is antiemetic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, restorative, stimulant and stomachic[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
21
Title
The Herb Book.
Publication
 
Author
Lust. J.
Publisher
Bantam books
Year
1983
ISBN
0-553-23827-2
Description
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
,
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
]. The leaves should be harvested when the plant is just coming into flower, and can be dried for later use[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
].
The stems are macerated and used as a poultice on bruises[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
].
The essential oil in the leaves is antiseptic, though it is toxic in large doses[
222
Title
A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America.
Publication
 
Author
Foster. S. & Duke. J. A.
Publisher
Houghton Mifflin Co.
Year
1990
ISBN
0395467225
Description
A concise book dealing with almost 500 species. A line drawing of each plant is included plus colour photographs of about 100 species. Very good as a field guide, it only gives brief details about the plants medicinal properties.
].
Both the essential oil and the stems are used in folk remedies for cancer[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
]. A poultice prepared from the leaves is said to remedy tumours[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
].

Other Uses

An essential oil is obtained from the whole plant, the yield is about 4K of oil from 1 tonne of leaves[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
57
Title
Plants for Man.
Publication
 
Author
Schery. R. W.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Fairly readable but not very comprehensive. Deals with plants from around the world.
]. The oil is used commercially as a food flavouring and oral hygiene preparation[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].
The plant repels insects and was formerly used as an strewing herb[
14
Title
Complete Guide to Herbs.
Publication
 
Author
Holtom. J. and Hylton. W.
Publisher
Rodale Press
Year
1979
ISBN
0-87857-262-7
Description
A good herbal.
,
18
Title
Companion Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Philbrick H. and Gregg R. B.
Publisher
Watkins
Year
1979
ISBN
-
Description
Details of beneficial and antagonistic relationships between neighbouring plants.
,
20
Title
Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.
Publication
 
Author
Riotte. L.
Publisher
Garden Way, Vermont, USA.
Year
1978
ISBN
0-88266-064-0
Description
Fairly good.
]. 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[
244
Title
Herbs
Publication
 
Author
Phillips. R. & Foy. N.
Publisher
Pan Books Ltd. London.
Year
1990
ISBN
0-330-30725-8
Description
Deals with all types of herbs including medicinal, culinary, scented and dye plants. Excellent photographs with quite good information on each plant.
].

Propagation

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[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
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.
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2019-12-05. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Mentha+spicata>

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