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Widely grown as a culinary herb and ornamental plant, spearmint is famous for its distinctive, fresh taste and fragrance.
Alongside its extensive use in cooking, spearmint is also found in many of our everyday products, including mouthwash, toothpaste and chewing gum.
Aromatic herb with erect, square-shaped stems and narrow, oval-shaped leaves that have pointed tips and toothed edges. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs and the small, pink, light purple or white flowers appear in spikes.
Beauty and cosmetics
The aromatic oil from the spearmint plant is sometimes used to fragrance perfumes, shampoos, and soaps.
Food and drink
Spearmint leaves add a fresh taste to several drinks including mojitos and herbal teas. They are also used as a garnish and are sometimes added to salads.
Spearmint oil is used to flavour toothpaste and confectionary.
In Colombia, the stems and leaves of the spearmint plant are used to relieve stomach aches.
To celebrate the London 2012 Olympics, a spectacular floral display of the Olympic rings adorned the lawn in front of the Orangery at Kew Gardens. The green ring was planted with a close relative of spearmint called apple mint (Mentha suaveolens).
Menthol is extracted from mint oil. It gives a cooling, tingling sensation when consumed as it triggers receptors that respond to cold temperatures.
Mint is best used when it is fresh because this is when the volatile oils in the leaves are most intense, giving them a stronger flavour.
Spearmint gets its common name from its spear-shaped (lanceolate) leaves, and the Latin word spicata refers to its floral spikes.
Wetlands, mostly on margins and banks of rivers.
The mint family is the sixth largest flowering plant family in the world and has been a focus of Kew’s scientific research for decades.
Our scientists have published multiple Flora on the mint family — a Flora is a publication that details the plant species in a particular area.
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One such Kew publication, entitled ‘Lamiaceae Flora Malesiana’, describes the mint family in an area of Southeast Asia between Sumatra and New Guinea, known as Malesia.
It details over 300 species that are native or naturalised (established so that it is wild in a region where it is not native) to Malesia. 55% of which are only found in Malesia.
Malesian mint species hugely vary from large timber trees to culinary herbs, and ornamental plants to tropical vines.
Flora such as this one are important tools for scientists; until we fully understand biodiversity, we cannot protect it from habitat destruction and climate change.