Monthly Archives: September 2014

Wednesday Weed – Water Mint

Every Wednesday, I hope to find a new ‘weed’ to investigate. My only criterion will be that I will not have deliberately planted the subject of our inquiry. Who knows what we will find…..

Water Mint (Mentha aquatica)

Water Mint (Mentha aquatica)

On Sunday, I went for a walk in Coldfall Wood to see what plants I could find for the Wednesday Weed. As I reached the winter pond known locally as The Everglades, I could see that the area which was completely flooded in February…

The 'Everglades' back in February

The ‘Everglades’ back in February

was now a bog.

Harvestman Cuckoopint Mauve flower 013

However, if I’d known nothing else, the Water Mint would have indicated that this was not a place to go walking without Wellington boots. Like most mints, it relishes damp, shady places. There are many different kinds of native mint, but the lilac bobble tops of the Water Mint are a dead giveaway.

Harvestman Cuckoopint Mauve flower 012In Flora Britannica, Richard Mabey describes how the eighteenth-century botanist  William Sole published a survey of British mints. Sole wrote that the smell of Water Mint

‘ exactly that of a ropy chimney in a wet summer, where wood fires have been kept in the winter time’.

Unfortunately I could not approach closely enough to see if this was the case, but if anyone finds Water Mint in a more convenient location, do have a sniff and let us all know. In the meantime, Water Mint can be used to make a delicately flavoured tea which is said to be good for stomach upsets, though I must admit that if I was feeling unwell, something that tasted of chimneys might be the final straw.

It was a real pleasure to find Water Mint growing so close to home. The last bumblebees of summer were feeding from those deep-hearted lilac blossoms, and as we head into September, it was good to see something so nectar-rich still flowering when most other plants are thinking of dying back. Most of all,  I love the exuberance  of those perfect lilac globes. They remind me so much of the psychedelic lightshades of my youth.

Chandelier 3