pronounced: lay-mee-AY-see-eye

the mint or lavender family


The original name of this family was Labiateae (Latin labia, a lip), so given because the flowers typically have petals fused into an upper lip and a lower lip. Although this is still considered an acceptable alternative name, most botanists now use Lamiaceae. This name is derived from the Latin lamium, the dead-nettle, one of the genera of the family. Lamiaceae are mostly herbs or shrubs, usually with strongly aromatic leaves. The leaves are opposite and decussate, or whorled. The stems are mostly square in cross-section, although one should be wary in using this fact to identify members, as not all members of the family are so, and square stems are sometimes found in other families. The flowers are mauve, purple or white. Many widely used culinary herbs are members: basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, hyssop, thyme, lavender and perilla. The family has recently been much enlarged. Callicarpa, Clerodendrum, Oncinocalyx, Phyla, Premna and Vitex, now included in Lamiaceae, were previously included in the Verbenaceae.


Photograph © Saffron Blaze (own work) via Wikimedia Commons