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Mentha suaveolens (apple mint)

A vigorous, aromatic perennial native to southern and western Europe, apple mint is grown as a culinary herb and ornamental.

Mentha suaveolens (apple mint) plants seen from above

Mentha suaveolens (apple mint)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Mentha suaveolens Ehrh.

Common name: 

apple mint, woolly mint, round-leaved mint

Conservation status: 

Not assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Habitat: 

Damp or wet habitats.

Key Uses: 

Culinary herb, ornamental.

Known hazards: 

None known.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Asteranae
Order: 
Lamiales
Family: 
Lamiaceae
Genus: Mentha

About this species

A member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), apple mint is an aromatic herb with a fruity, spearmint flavour. Also known by the common name round-leaved mint, Mentha suaveolens is often misnamed M. rotundifolia in cultivation. Apple mint is cultivated as a culinary herb and is used in the production of mint sauce and jelly.

Synonym: 

Mentha ×rotundifolia var. suaveolens (Ehrh.) Briq.

Genus: 
Mentha

Discover more

Geography and distribution

Apple mint is native to southern and western Europe and is also naturalised in northern and central Europe.

Description

Overview: A creeping, aromatic (apple-scented), perennial herb growing 40–100 cm tall. The stems are sparsely to densely hairy.

Leaves: The hairy, wrinkly leaves are 3.0–4.5 × 2.0–4.0 cm with toothed margins.

Flowers: Pink to white flowers are produced in dense terminal spikes (each consisting of many false whorls), 4–9 cm long.

Kew’s Olympic floral spectacular

Olympic floral spectacular in front of Kew's Orangery

 

From April to September 2012 a floral spectacular was in bloom in front of the Orangery at Kew Gardens to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic Games. This enormous representation of the Olympic rings could even be admired by air passengers flying over the Gardens.

The 50 m display included pelargoniums (Pelargonium ×hortorum ‘Horizon Red’), French marigolds (Tagetes patula ‘Atom Yellow’) and lobelias (Lobelia erinus ‘Cambridge Blue’). The black ring was created using black lilyturf (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) and the green ring was planted with apple mint (Mentha suaveolens).

The five interlaced rings designed in 1913 by the founder of the modern Olympic Games Baron Pierre de Coubertin represent the coming together of five continents to embrace the Olympic values: striving for excellence, demonstrating respect and celebrating friendship.

Uses

Apple mint leaves are used to make mint sauce and jelly, which are commonly served alongside lamb, tzatziki and tabbouleh. Leaves can be candied and also used for flavouring in herb teas and iced drinks. Apple mint leaves are hairy, and hence considered less suitable for use as a garnish than those of Mentha spicata (spearmint).

Commonly cultivated as a pot plant and culinary herb, apple mint is an invasive plant and must be kept in check if grown in open ground. The attractive cultivar Mentha suaveolens ‘Variegata’ (pineapple mint) has creamy-white streaked leaves and a sweet and fruity fragrance.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Three collections of apple mint seeds are held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

This species at Kew

Apple mint can be seen growing in the Queen’s Garden behind Kew Palace.

Pressed and dried specimens of Mentha suaveolens are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some of these specimens can be seen online in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue.

References and credits

Bown, D. (1996). The RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London.

Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (eds) (1999). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening, Volume 3 (L to Q). Macmillan Reference, London.

Mabberley, D. J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Tutin, T. G. et al. (1972). Flora Europaea, Volume 3 (Diapensiaceae to Myoporaceae). Cambridge University Press, London.

World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). Mentha suaveolens. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Available online (accessed 3 July 2012).

Kew Science Editor: Emma Tredwell
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell

Although every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, notes on hazards, edibility and suchlike included here are recorded information and do not constitute recommendations. No responsibility will be taken for readers’ own actions.

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