The mint family (Lamiaceae)
The Lamiaceae, or mint family, is the seventh largest flowering plant family and comprises around 7,000 species worldwide, including woody herbs and climbers, shrubs and trees.
The mint family includes many well-known plants, herbs, shrubs and trees of horticultural or economic importance. These range from tall timber trees such as teak (Tectona grandis) to aromatic or culinary species such as sage (Salvia), thyme (Thymus), mint (Mentha), oregano or marjoram (Origanum), rosemary (Rosmarinus), lavender (Lavandula), basils (Ocimum) and patchouli (Pogostemon). Lamiaceae are also widely used in traditional medicine.
Where they occur
Species occur throughout the world, with the exception of the coldest polar regions, and are particularly widespread in tropical and temperate areas, especially those with a seasonal climate such as the Mediterranean and tropical upland savannas. While some species thrive in semi-arid conditions, others are adapted to wet habitats, in seasonally flooded areas or along forested river banks.
Well-known ornamental plants in the family include bugle (Ajuga), sages (Salvia), yellow-flowered Jerusalem sage (Phlomis) and catmint (Nepeta). Many of these and related species are also important bee plants, providing the nectar and pollen to support bee colonies and provide honey.
The essential oils (secreted from glands on the leaves and stems) are commercially extracted from many species. Menthol is one of the most important, being used in medicine and for flavouring. Thymol, extracted from thyme, is also used medicinally, as a very powerful antiseptic.
Kew's work on the mint family
Kew’s Lamiaceae team carries out a range of multi-disciplinary research to gain a deeper understanding of the family and its close relatives, its diversity, utility and conservation needs. The team has also produced a global checklist of the Lamiaceae and an interactive key to the genera, with fact sheets on each genus (see list below).
The tropical tribe Ocimeae (basil and allies) has provided a focus for activities in the recent years, and this now moving towards the subfamily Viticoideae (teak, Vitex and its allies) and the medicinally and horticulturally important genus Salvia.
Find out more
- More on the work of Kew's Lamiaceae team
- World checklist of Lamiaceae and Verbenaceae
- Interactive key to the Lamiaceae
- What are the Lamiaceae?
- General uses of the Lamiaceae
- Lavandula collection
Investigate further: genus factsheets
Sage (Salvia) | Lavender (Lavandula) | Thyme (Thymus) | Rosemary (Rosmarinus) | Origano / Majoram (Origanum) | Basil (Ocimum) | Teak (Tectona) | Deadnettle (Lamium) | Catmint (Nepeta) | Clerodendurm | Jerusalem sage (Phlomis) | Coleus / Plectranthus (Plectranthus) | Patchouli (Pogostemon)
Explore our species profiles: the mint family
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