Monday, June 7, 2010

Downy Wood Mint

Downy Wood Mint, Blephilia ciliata, is the first of the summer flowers on the Blue Jay Barrens prairies. This plant seems to be having an exceptional year and is blooming in incredible numbers. If other flowers follow this pattern, it’s going to be an amazing summer.

The emergence of Great Spangled Fritillaries has coincided with the blooming of the Wood Mint. This attractive butterfly emerged in record numbers last year. It is one of the easiest of butterflies to photograph. There’ve been times when I’ve had to shoo them away in order to get a shot of the flower.

Downy Wood Mint is normally described as being a plant of dry woods, but at Blue Jay Barrens they are more commonly plants of the open fields and thrive anywhere from the dry open ridge tops to the moist areas at the base of the slopes. By the time the tall grasses begin to over top it, the Wood Mint will have its seed nearly matured.

The flowers are arranged in whorls near the top of the stalk. It kind of reminds me of a modern high rise apartment building. The very similar Hairy Wood Mint normally shows more separation between the whorls.

The 30 inch stem is sparsely populated with narrow leaves. The nearly stalkless leaves are another differentiation from the Hairy Wood Mint that has long stalked leaves. The stem is classic mint, displaying four flat sides, with a coating of short hairs that give it a velvet like appearance.


  1. Does it have that minty smell? We have a few species of wild mint up here that don't. ~karen

  2. Lovely images once again. We, too, have several types of mint, but no wild mint in the city.

  3. Wow--those flower are gorgeous---look something like orchid types!!! You know I have seen very few butterflies this year just the swallowtail now and then!!! Great info. and photos!!! Renee is having computer problem but she says -Hi!!

  4. Karen - There's an odor, but not one you would typically call minty.

    Thanks, Lois.

    grammie g - Strange you're not seeing any butterflies yet. I know your butterflies are behind us, but you'd think they'd be showing up by now.