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Meet the mint family

Gemma Bramley
10 December 2010
Blog team: 
Learn about some of the scientific research Kew botanists are focusing on in the Lamiaceae family, and visit Kew Gardens this month to hear more about it from our volunteer guides.

Meet the mint family (Lamiaceae)

On Wednesdays and Sundays between 11.30am and 2.30pm Kew’s volunteer guides will be in the Secluded Garden Glasshouse, ready to tell you all about the mint family (Lamiaceae / Labiatae). Until 2 January 2011 they will have objects from Kew’s collections on display that illustrate some of the scientific research we are carrying out on the Lamiaceae. I’m a botanist in Kew’s Herbarium, where I curate and research the Lamiaceae collections; I’ve been working with the volunteer guides to select the interesting science stories they are focusing their ‘hands-on’ sessions on.

A guided tour at Kew Gardens

We'll have sage, rosemary and thyme as examples of the Lamiaceae that are commonly used in households, whether it’s in the kitchen, or in the garden. These herbs display the features characteristic of the Lamiaceae family: square stems, leaves in opposite pairs, foliage that is aromatic when crushed, tubular, often 2-lipped flowers and 4 ‘nutlets’ which make up the fruit. But we'll also be telling the stories of other species of interest.  You may be surprised to find out that the tall timber tree, teak (Tectona grandis) is also a member of the Lamiaceae. And common sage (Salvia officinalis) is just one of around 900 species of Salvia. It’s also not the just the leaves of the Lamiaceae that are used in the kitchen - in Africa, the tubers of Plectranthus esculentus, the Livingstone potato, are used as a staple food.


Kew's Lamiaceae Research

The hands-on sessions are giving just a taster of the research we are doing on the Lamiaceae.  For example, I’ve been studying Tectona grandis as part of my work on the Flora Malesiana - a project that aims to document and describe the plant species of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam. My colleague, Alan Paton, has been revising the genus Plectranthus as part of the Flora of Tropical East Africa and Flora Zambesiaca projects. And a very special species of Salvia, S. caymanensis (Cayman sage), has become a focus of Kew’s UKOTs (UK Overseas Territories) team. Once thought to be extinct on its native island of Grand Cayman, Salvia caymanensis was recently rediscovered and is now part of a conservation programme.


Salvia caymanensis flower

You can find out more about these species from the volunteer guides - Sundays and Wednesdays from Sunday 5 December - Sunday 2 January, 11.30am - 2.30pm in the Secluded Garden Glasshouse. Or, follow the links to read more on species in the Lamiaceae using our species pages.

Thanks for reading!

- Gemma -


26 December 2010
I like this page because I love to identify plants and the mint family is especially easy to identify. I learned that rosemary and thyme are also in this family. The flowers in this family are usually visually appealing. From Chicago,IL,USA

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