Throughout this summer’s unprecedented heart wave, many of the plants my wife and I have planted for pollinators are requiring regular watering. Such has not been the case with a native plant named mountain-mint (Pycnanthemumssp.). We have not watered our three patches of mountain mint a single time. In spite of this, the plants in all three spots have flourished and are attracting more pollenators than other plant growing in our yard.
This was dramatically illustrated week when we participated in the Great Southeast Pollinator Count. We selected the two plants (mountain-mint and butterfly bush to survey. During the 15-minute count at the mountain mint plants, 39 individual pollinators were recorded. This list included bumblebee – 1, carpenter bee – 2, small bees – 2, wasps – 8, flies – 7, butterflies – 18, and ant -1.
We saw two juniper hairstreaks and 16 red-banded hairstreaks. To put this in perspective, the day before I surveyed butterflies on the Annual Fall Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge/Rum Creek Wildlife Management Area Butterfly Count. In spite of the fact that the team I was assigned to spent 7.5 hours in the field and walked some 2.2 while visiting a number of sites scattered across much of the eastern side of Monroe County and a small piece of Jasper County, we spotted only three red-banded hairstreaks.
The value of mountain-mint to wild pollinators has been long recognized. For example, Penn State conducted a research project to determine the value of a number of pollinator plants o wild pollinators found mountain-mint to be the plant most attractive to these special insects. In addition, it tied with stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida) for the top spot for its ability to attract the greatest diversity of pollinators.
This fragrant plant grows up to six feet tall. The plants blooms appear in clusters of small white to lavender tubular-shaped flowers arranged on a button-like base. Each flower cluster is surrounded by a cluster of bracts (modified leaves) that appeared to be covered with flour or powdered sugar. In addition, it blooms for weeks during the summer.
Mountain-mint is easy to grow. Like most folks that have it growing in their yards, a friend gave me, a handful of plants several years ago. They did not produce any flowers the first year they were in the ground but have bloomed ever since.
Keep in mind that the plant spreads rapidly, so place put it in a spot where it has room to spread. If they do venture into areas where you don’t want them, they can be easily controlled.
Like so many plants, they seem to attract more pollinators when planted in large groupings. This is in partly because a large number of plants are more easily seen by pollinators. In addition, larger patches of plants such as mountain-mint produce scents that can be more easily detected by potential visitors. This appears to be particularly true in urban areas suffering from air pollution.
If you do not have a friend or two that is willing to give you a few mountain-mint plants, I am sure that a nursery that deals in native plants can provide you with all that you need.