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Plant ID: 2 plants with scented leaves  RSS feed

 
Jennifer Quinn
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I am visiting family in Texas, north of Dallas, and I found these plants. The first one has a sweet, lemon-geranium scent in its leaves:


The second smells strongly of toasted sesame oil. It is extremely pungent and the scent stays on your skin after you touch the leaves. It has small yellow flowers at the end of the stalks.


Is anyone familiar with either of these? I like to make my own tea and will collect the seeds if these plants are edible. Thanks
 
Deb Stephens
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Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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I think the first one is probably calamint. At first, I thought it might be a member of the scuttelaria genus (skullcap) but the leaves are far too short and narrow for the more common species (I think there are something like 50 or more species in the genus) and on taking a second look, I'm guessing calamint (Calamintha -- probably C. nepeta). If it is calamint, it was originally from Europe, but has naturalized in the US and grows all over here in Missouri. It likes dry, limestone glades, prairies and other sunny, rocky places. It has a very strong aromatic odour (to my mind it smells more like eucalyptus) and was used as a strewing herb in medieval times. It does make a nice tea, and it is in the mint family, but it is also nice to dry and use as our ancestors did, for helping to give a nice smell to a room (or drive out bugs if that is a problem). Get a positive ID first before drinking tea from it, however!

The second plant could be a member of the chrysanthemum family from the shape of the leaves, but so many plants have those basal rosettes that in the absence of a flower to ID it from, it could be any number of things. Ox-eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare)--also a European introduction-- are chrysanthemums, and the leaves (which look somewhat similar) are edible, but I wouldn't eat these until you positively key them out. Can you post a flower photo?
 
Jennifer Quinn
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Deb Stephens wrote:I think the first one is probably calamint.


Excellent! Thanks to your lead, I think I have a positive ID for this plant as Calamintha Arkansana Ozark Calamint. It is apparently native to the U.S. and somewhat rare, so I will be propagating it and sharing with anyone who wants some. According to the North American Native Plant Society, C. Arkansana likes soil with a pH of 6.8-8.0 and does well in rock gardens.


Here is a picture of the flower from the second plant:

 
Deb Stephens
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Jennifer Quinn wrote:

Excellent! Thanks to your lead, I think I have a positive ID for this plant as Calamintha Arkansana Ozark Calamint. It is apparently native to the U.S. and somewhat rare, so I will be propagating it and sharing with anyone who wants some. According to the North American Native Plant Society, C. Arkansana likes soil with a pH of 6.8-8.0 and does well in rock gardens.


Here is a picture of the flower from the second plant:



That's great! I have learned something as well, because I was told--many years ago by a Missouri Department of Conservation biologist--that all the calamints were naturalized from Europe way back in early settler days. Turns out that your Calamintha arkansana is THE calamint we have covering our glades here. It grows as thick as the grasses out on the glades and smells wonderful when you walk through it. I always thought it was rather suspect that something so obviously adapted to this environment would be a non-native. Just goes to show that I should really have looked it up instead of taking his word for it!!! I have found that the so-called "experts" in our local department really don't know what they are talking about half of the time. (Much more interested in hunting regs than wildlfowers.)

As for the second plant. Having 4 petals and 6 stamens usually indicates a brassica of some sort, so I would look at native plants in the mustard family first. (One other remote possibility is Oenothera linifolia, which at least superficially resembles your photo, but I can't say for sure without actually seeing the plant.) At any rate, I am going with the brassicas--possibly one of the wallflowers (Erysimum spp.) Good luck finding the exact genus and species because there are thousands of them! And do let us know when you find it.
 
Jennifer Quinn
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Deb Stephens wrote:Having 4 petals and 6 stamens usually indicates a brassica of some sort... And do let us know when you find it

Ok, I've done my homework and I think I've found a match! I had to look at the seed pods to be sure. They match this picture:

Wall Rocket or Diplotaxis muralis, also known as “stinkweed”, is basically a wild relative of modern Arugula. Its pungent scent is due to glucosides, which are cancer-fighting polyphenols present in all members of the brassicaceae family. Glucosides are also found in sesame seeds (sesaminol glucosides), so I’m guessing that’s why I thought it smelled like sesame oil?? It was brought to the Americas in ships’ ballast sand and is originally from the Mediterranean region. Supposedly it is good to eat.

Thanks again, Deb, I really appreciate your help in identifying these plants
 
Deb Stephens
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I think you're right on this one. I thought it looked like a brassica! Although at first I worried that the leaves in the drawing you posted were more deeply toothed, so wondered if it might be same genus but different species. I Googled Diplotaxis species and after looking at several photos came to the conclusion that, just like ordinary arugula, the leaves can become more deeply lobed as they age and can often start off a bit rounder--like those you found. This page shows a more rounded version and it does, indeed, look like yours. http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/annual-wall-rocket especially this photo...



So... great teamwork. I love trying to figure these things out, don't you? I love arugula by the way, and would really like to know if these taste as good. Let me know if you try them. Bon apetite!
 
Jennifer Quinn
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Deb Stephens wrote:So... great teamwork. I love trying to figure these things out, don't you?

Yes Time spent learning about nature is never wasted IMO
Deb Stephens wrote:I love arugula by the way, and would really like to know if these taste as good. Let me know if you try them. Bon apetite!

The taste is strong, bitter and peppery--think radish on steroids! I bet they'd be a lot milder if grown in cooler, wetter conditions. It would be a fun experiment to try and come up with a salad-worthy version using selective breeding; in any case I'm holding onto a bunch of the seeds for my future garden...
 
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