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Plants of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States

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Common Name
American Germander (Wood Sage; Canada Germander, Wood Sage)

 

Scientific Name
Teucrium canadense L.

 

Plant Family
Mint (Lamiaceae)

Garden Location
Woodland

 

Prime Season
Late Summer Flowering

 

 

American (or Canada) Germander is an erect native perennial forb growing 1 to 3 feet in height on unbranched stout, hollow, 4-angled stems which are densely hairy.

The leaves are opposite, broadly lanceolate with toothed edges, tapering to a pointed tip and rounding at the base to short stalk, the taper forming a small wing, except that the very upper leaves may be stalkless. The vein pattern is reticulated and deeply etched. Upper surfaces may be smooth or with fine hair, the underside with dense fine hair.

The inflorescence is a dense terminal spike with a conical cluster of flowers.

The flowers are on very short stalks subtended by a small bract. The corolla tube is greenish and with glandular hair. The lobes can range in color from white to pink to purple. The corolla has a much reduced upper lip that has 2 lobes held erect like a pair of praying hands, while the lower lip has the typical 3 lobes of the mint family, but the center lobe sticks straight out and is quite broad while the 2 lateral lobes are smaller and turned upright at about 90 degrees to the middle lobe. The central lobe has purple spots. The 4 stamens with red anthers are very prominent as they protrude upward from the base of the flower between and beyond the 2 upper lobes. They are in 2 pairs of unequal length with greenish-white filaments. The style is white with a 2-lobed stigma and rises between the stamen pairs. Both anthers and style are exserted well beyond the tube of the corolla.

Seed: Fertile flowers produce 4 round nutlets held by the 3 upper teeth and 2 lower teeth of the calyx. These are dispensed when mature by wind shaking the stem.

 

Habitat: American Germander grows in moist soils of thickets and along marshes, tolerates poorly drained soil and does well in full or partial sun. It has a rhizomatous root system and can spread vegetatively thereby in addition to re-seeding.

Names: The genus, Teucrium, is believed to be named for King Teucer of Troy, as members of this genus are common in the Mediterranean area. This genus is made up of Mint family plants that either lack the upper lip of the corolla or have it structured much differently, such as here. The species, canadense, means 'of Canada'. As to the common names, American Germander is the older term and newer references, including USDA and the U of M Herbarium, prefer Canada Germander. The author name for the plant classification - 'L.' refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy.

Comparisons: While the flower spike and leaves are similar to many other mint family plants, the absence of a normally shaped upper lip makes this species easy to identify. Compare to Marsh Hedge-nettle.

See bottom of page for notes on the Garden's planting history, distribution in Minnesota and North America, lore and other references.

upper plant section drawing

Above: The inflorescence and upper stem section. Drawing from Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.

Below: The petal arrangement is different from most mints. What would normally be a two lobed upper lip appears here as two upright petals with tips touching and with the 4 stamens and style rising between and above them. The lower lip has one large forward projecting lobe and two smaller lobes held vertically.

American Germander American Germander

Below: The opposite leaves are broadly lanceolate with toothed edges, tapering to a pointed tip and rounding at the base to short stalk. The vein pattern is reticulated and deeply etched.

American Germander

Notes:

Notes: Eloise Butler had catalogued this plant in her plant index in 1912 as present in the Garden area. She also brought in some on Aug. 13, 1912, from Ft. Snelling (Minneapolis area). Martha Crone noted that she planted 9 plants on July 6, 1933 that she obtained from an area near Shakopee. The general area where she noted planting them is about the same as where these plants currently grow along the east Woodland Garden path. The plant is native to Minnesota in most counties except the North Central Part of the State and the Arrowhead.

More on names: Two varieties are recognized in Minnesota, Teucrium canadense L. var. occidentale known as Western germander and T. canadense L. var. occidentale, known as Canada Germander. The Minnesota DNR does not specify which counties have distributions of which. The differences are slight: var. occidentale has fine hair on the calyx and bracts and var. virginicum does not. The latter variety is usually the most prevalent in our area. To further complicate the identification process, some references, such as USDA, now classify var. virginicum and several other varieties as synonyms of var. canadense. There is little information in the literature about any medicinal or foodstuff properties for this plant, but within the same genus are such well known herbs as Thyme.

References and site links

References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.

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