Monardella odoratissima.JPG

Pacific Monardella, Monardella odoratissima.

Name: Monardella odoratissima

Scientific name:Pacific Monardella

Pacific Monardella is an attractive plant that often goes unnoticed in the Blue Mountains, though it is fairly common. It grows from British Columbia to California, to Idaho, Utah and New Mexico.

It blooms in the middle of the summer at middle to upper elevations. The plant forms dense clumps, often a foot tall and wide. The pinkish-purple flowers are in heads at the top of each stem. The leaves are lance-shaped and opposite each other along the stem.

This plant is a member of the mint family. As is true for most mints, the stems are square. Each flower in a head has five petals, though they appear to have only four, because two of the petals are partly fused together except at the tips. The flower heads are about an inch wide, and the flowers are each about a half to three quarters of an inch long. If you find this plant, be sure to notice the scent, which isn’t really pleasant but is more typical of the mint family than those used for flavoring food.

The plant has been used by many Indian tribes for medicine, food, fiber and tools. Medicinal uses include treatment of colds, gas pain, as an eye wash, upset stomach and to make a medicinal tea. A decoction of stems and flower heads, or of stems and leaves, has been used as a cold or hot tea. Tools such as spears, hooks and harpoons were wiped with the plant to remove scent, and the plants were put under hats for the fragrance.

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Bruce Barnes directs Flora ID, producing plant ID software, found at flora-id.org. Reach him at flora.id@wtechlink.us.

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