Peppermint (Lamiaceae: Mentha x piperita)

— This article by Jerry Cates was first published on 23 October 2015, and revised last on 12 September 2016. © Budsinthenews Vol. 6:10(8).

Peppermint (Mentha piperita). Source: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita). Source: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen

Peppermint (Mentha × piperita), is also known as M. balsamea Willd. As the species designation — G x s — indicates, it is a hybrid, being a cross between watermint and spearmint, and as with typical hybrids is usually sterile, produces no seeds, and propagates vegetatively via its wide-spreading rhizomes. This botanical, which is indigenous to Europe and the Middle East, is widely cultivated throughout the world.

When first formally described in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus, who used specimens from England, it was erroneously considered a species. As a herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant, peppermint grows from 30–90 cm (12–35 in) tall. It has smooth stems that have a square cross section. Peppermint rhizomes are fleshy with bare, fibrous roots. Its leaves measure from 4–9 cm (1.6–3.5 in) in length 1.5–4 cm (0.59–1.57 in) in width, are dark green with reddish veins, and display coarsely toothed margins. Flowers, which are purple and 6–8 mm (0.24–0.31 in) in length, have a four-lobed corolla about 5 mm (0.20 in) in diameter, and are produced in whorls (verticillasters) around the stem, where they form thick, blunt spikes. Flowering is from mid to late summer. Chromosome counts of 66, 72, 84, and 120 have been recorded

Peppermint prefers moist habitats proximate to streams and drainage ditches. A hardy plant, it usually manages to grow wherever it is planted.

Peppermint leaves and flowering tops are collected for culinary and perfumery purposes once the flower buds begin to open and can be dried.

Peppermint extracts have a high menthol content, and the oil contains menthone and carboxyl esters, especially menthyl acetate. Dried peppermint typically has 0.3–0.4% of volatile oil containing menthol (7–48%), menthone (20–46%), menthyl acetate (3–10%), menthofuran (1–17%), eucalyptol [1,8-cineol] (3–6%), and minor amounts of limonene, pulegone, caryophyllene and pinene.


Taxonomy:

  • Domain: Eukaryota (yew-carr-ee-OH-tah)  — from the Greek prefix ευ (yew) = good, well, pleasing + καρυον (khar-yone) = a nut/nucleus, thus organisms whose cells contain a nucleus and other organelles within membranes.
  • (unranked): Bikonta Cavalier-Smith, 1993 (bye-KOHN-tuh) — from the Latin bis = twice/double + the Greek κοντος = a punting pole; those eukaryotic organisms within the subgroups Apusozoa, Rhizaria, Excavata, Archaeplastida, or Chromalveolata.
  • (unranked): Archaeplastida Adl et al., 2005 (ahr-kee-PLASS-tih-duh) — from the Greek αρχαιος (AHR-kee-ose) = ancient/antiquated + πλασις (PLAS-iss) = a moulding + Anglo Saxon tid = time; a major group of eukaryotes, comprised of the red algae (Rhodophyta), the green algae, and the land plants along with the freshwater unicellular algae known as glaucophytes.
  • Kingdom/Regnum: Plantae Copeland, 1956 (PLAN-tee) or Viridiplantae Cavalier-Smith, 1881 (veer-id-eye-PLAN-tee) — from the Latin planta = a green twig; the plant kingdom, consisting of multi-cellular green plants, i.e., whose cells have cellulose within their cell walls and have primary chloroplasts derived from endosymbiosis with cyanobacteria containing chlorophylls a and b and lack phycobilins..
  • (unranked): Streptophyta Jeffrey 1967 (strepp-toh-PHY-tuh) — from στρεπτος (STREP-tose) = (easily) twisted, pliant + φυτον (PHU-tawn) = a plant/tree; the land plants and the green algal group Charophyta.
  • Subkingdom: Embryophyta Engler, 1892 (imm-bree-oh-FYE-tuh) — from the Greek εμβρυον (EMM-bree-yon) + φυτον (PHU-tawn) = a plant/tree; green plants, informally known as land plants because most are terrestrial rather than aquatic, while the related green algae are primarily aquatic;
  • (unranked): Angiosperms (AN-gee-oh-spurms)/Magnoliophyta Cronquist (mag-NOH-lee-oh-fye-tuh) — from the Greek αγγειον (AUGG-ee-awn) = a vessel/pail/reservoir + σπερμα (SPUR-mah) = a seed; the flowering plants, distinguished from the gymnosperms by having flowers, endosperm within the seeds, and the production of fruits that contain the seeds;
  • (unranked) Eudicots (YEW-dee-kotts) — from the Greek prefix ευ (yew) = good, well, pleasing + δι (die/dee) = two/double + κοτυληδων (cott-ee-LEE-dun) = a cup-shaped hollow; a monophyletic clade of flowering plants previously known as tricolpates or non-magnoliid dicots, to emphasize the evolutionary divergence of tricolpat dicots from earlier, less specialized dicots; close relationships are presumed among flowering plants with tricolpate pollen grains (the grains have three colpi, or elongated apertures or furrows in the pollen grain paralleling the polar axis);
  • (unranked) Asterids (ASS-tur-iddz) — from the Greek αστηρ (ASS-turr) = a star/meteor + the Latin suffix -idus (EE-duss) = indicative of having the nature of; one of the two most species group of eudicots (which have inflorescences having the appearance of a meteor or shooting star), the other being the rosids;
  • Order: Lamiales (lam-ee-AWL-ees) — the etymology of this designation is obscure; comprised of asterids generally having a superior ovary composed of two fused carpels, inflorescences with four petals fused into a tube, bilaterally symmetrical, often bilabial corollas, and four or fewer fertile stamens;
  • Family: Lamiaceae (lam-ee-ACE-uh-ee) — the etymology of this designation is obscure; comprised of the mint or deadnettle family of flowering plants containing about 236 genera and some 6,900 to 7,534 species, many aromatic in all parts, others being shrubs, trees (incl. teak), and some vines;
  • Subfamily: Nepetoideae (nepp-uh-TOY-duh-ee) — from the Latin noun nepeta = catnip, a kind of mint; a subfamily of the mint family divided into four tribes: 1. Tribe Elsholtzieae, 2. Tribe Lavanduleae (includes lavender), 3. Tribe Mentheae (the largest tribe, containing the herbs sage, thyme, and mint), and 4. Tribe Ocimeae (includes sweet basil);
  • Tribe: Mentheae (MEN-thay-ee) — from the Latin noun menthe  = mint; comprised of one third of the species of the mint family, Lamiaceae; common names of plants within this tribe are apple-mint, corn-mint, ginger mint, horsemint, mint, orange-mint, pennyroyal, peppermint, spearmint, and watermint;
  • Genus: Mentha L. — from the Latin mentha/menta = mint; a genus of aromatic, almost exclusively perennial herbs with wide spreading underground stolons and branched erect, square, stems, comprised of 13-18 recognized species, none clearly distinct, many of which hybridize naturally; many hybrids and cultivars are in cultivation;
  • Type Species: M. spicata L. — commonly known as spearmint; a species native to Europe and Asia, and naturalized in Africa, the Americas, and the oceanic islands; a herbaceos, rhizomatous perennial mint with pink or white flowers in slender spikes;

References: In process… we do not post references that are not in our at-hand library and that we have not thoroughly examined. The vetting process takes time. A list of appropriate references relevant to the matter presented in this article will be posted as it becomes available.


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