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Lesser Calaminth

Calamintha nepeta  (L.) Savi  (Fam: LAMIACEAE.)

Published date of profile: July-2006.
Citation: Mifsud S., (July-2006) Calamintha nepeta on MaltaWildPlants.com

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Nomenclature

Species name :

Calamintha nepeta  (L.) Savi

Name Derivation :

Carl von Linné, Sweden, 1707-1778 ;
Gaetano Savi, Italy, 1769-1844

Synonyms :

Basionym or principal synonyms: Satureia nepeta
Full list of synonyms: [ PlantList ]   [ IPNI ]   [ Catalogue of Life ]

Plant Family :

Lamiaceae  Lindl.
(Mint Family)

Common name(s) :

Lesser Calaminth, Nepitella, Basil thyme

Maltese name(s) :

Kalaminta, Kammilta

Status for Malta :

Indigenous. Originating from the Maltese islands

Name Derivation:

Calamintha = Composed of two greek words 'Kalos' and 'minthe' directly meaning beautiful mint. Another source states that the Greek word 'Kalos' refers to the belief in its power to drive away serpents and the dreaded Basilisk, the fable king of the serpents.
nepeta = Alluding to the resemblence with plants of Nepeta (catmint) - another Genus in the mint family. The name may have connection with a type of ground ivy from Nepete, named for an Etruscan town which the plant was found in.

Remarks :

-


Morphology and structure

PLANT STRUCTURE:

Character

Growth Form

Branching

Surface

Description

Erect, Shrub form :

Upright, vertically straight up well clear off the ground. Remains low and assumes the shape of an extensively-branched shrub.

Highly Branched :

Numerous branches and sub-branches are present but the common main stem is usually tall and well visible.

Pubescent :

Covered with soft short hairs often pointing downwards.

General
Picture

Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010)

LEAVES:

Character

Arrangement

Attachment

Venation

Description

Opposite & Decussate :

Opposite pairs alternating at right angles to the next pair above or below.

Stalked / Petiolate :

Hanging out by a slender leaf-stalk.

Pinnate venation :

Lateral veins which diverge from the midrib towards the leaf marhins.

General
Picture

Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010)
 

Character

Leaf Shape

Leaf Margin

Remarks

Description

Ovate :

Oval shape, being broadest at the lower third and having rounded ends, hence like the shape of an egg.

Crenate :

Shallow, smooth and rounded teeth.

Scent

Leaves have a pleasant aromatic mint-like scent described as a cross between that of Mint and Oreganum.

General
Picture

Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010)

FLOWERS:

Character

Colour

Basic Flower Type

No. of Petals

No. of Sepals

Description

Lilac

Some specimens are almost white and others have a darker violet colour.

Labiate :

Flowers have a conspicuous lip-like structure.

2

Upper and lower petals each being lobed.

1

Fused tubular calyx wth 5 teeth at the mouth.

General
Picture

  Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010)
 

Character

Inflorescence

Description

Ovary

Stamens

Description

Verticillasters :

False whorls which actually are 2 dichasial cymes on opposite sides of stem usually at axils of opposite leaves.

The corolla is composed of two main petals, the upper with 2 small lobes and the lower (the lip) with 3 rounded lobes. The lower half of the corolla is fused into a tube which is inserted in a tubular calyx. The lilac corolla is decorated by dark-violet speckles and brush of white hairs at its mouth.

Inferior :

Ovary situated below the flower parts (the calyx, corolla, and androecium). In other words, these are attached above the ovary.

4, Didynamous :

Ovary situated below the flower parts (the calyx, corolla, and androecium). In other words, these are attached above the ovary.

General
Picture

Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010)
 

Character

Scent

Average Flower Size

Pollen Colour

Other Notes

Description

Mild fragrant

12mm x 9mm

Length of corolla tube x diameter of corolla.

Lilac

-


SEEDS:

Character

No. Per Fruit

Shape

Size

Colour

Description

1-4

(4 maximum).

Spherical

1mm

Dark brown

General
Picture

Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010)

FRUIT AND OTHER BOTANICAL DATA:

Character

Fruit Type

Colour of Fruit

Subterranean Parts

Other Notes

Description

Nutlets in Tetrads :

Group of 4 free nutlets partially or fully covered by the calyx. Each nutlet is rather cylindrical with one end flat and attached in sockets in the receptacle and the apical end being rounded or pointed.

Green

Ref. to the colour of the calyx.

Taproot :

A rooting system where there is the main descending root of a plant having a single dominant large structure from which a network of smaller and long roots emerge.

Stem cross-section

A distinct square-shaped cross section.

General
Picture

Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010) Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Islands of Malta  - Copyright Stephen Mifsud / Maltawildplants.com / Malta (2002-2010)

Plant description and characters

Life Cycle:

Perennial.

Growth Form:

HEMICRYPTOPHYTE (Creeping plants)

Habitat:

Pre-desert scub and high garigue. Frequently found in valleys sides and vegetated rocky places

Frequency:

Frequent

Localities in Malta:

Few examples include Wied il-Ghasel, Wied Incita, Wied Ghomor, Fiddien, Ta' Cenc (Gozo), Wied tax-Xlendi (Gozo).

Plant Height:

30-75cm.

Flowering Period:

Oct-Apr

Protection in Malta:

Not Protected by Law (LN200/2011 or LN311/2006)

Red List 1989:

Not listed in the Flora section of the National Red Data Book (Lanfranco, 1989)

Poison:

Not Poisonous.

A perennial, robust, strongly aromatic, creeping or low-growing shrub found growing on calcareous rocky ground, such as in valley sides, pre-desert scrub or garrigue. The plant is entirely pubescent, mostly at he abaxial surface of the leaves. The stems has a square cross section, woody at the lower parts of the plant, and herbaceous at the upper part. Several opposite side-branches are produced from the main stems.

The broadly oval-shaped leaves are quite small - measuring about 5-18mm long and 3-12mm wide with simple pinnate venation. The outline is entire to shallow crenate with up to 5 sinuses (crenations) per side. Leaves are shortly petioled (1-4mm), sometimes so short that seems as if sessile. Leaves have a rather greyish green colour and gives off a pleasant scent of mint and origanum.

The arrangement of leaves is opposite and decussate as in many member species of the mint Family. The leaves at the upper flowering part of the stems are found in opposite pairs almost perpendicular to each other, together with a pair of peduncled flower cyme from the same node of the leaf pair, hence producing an \'X\'-shaped arrangement with the leaf pair at one side, and the pair of flower bunches at the other side.
Each cyme consists of 5 to 10 flowers, rarely more in mature plants.
The flower is composed of a tubular pubescent calyx, 3-5mm long by 1-2mm diameter and a lilac to pale violet corolla about 5mm long. The calyx has 13 longitudinal veins and 5 tiny triangular teeth arranged actinomorphically at the mouth. The upper 2 teeth are 2mm long and acute, while the lower three are shorter (0.5-1mm) and obtuse (= broadly triangular). A brush of white bristles is present at the mouth of the calyx, visible when the corolla is shed.

The corolla is mainly composed of 2 lilac lips, the upper bifid and having a hood-like structure, the lower larger, divided into 3 lobes up to half the length of the corolla. The central lobe is the largest and often notched or shallowly bifid. The lower lip is further decorated by random dark violet spots or speckles. Tufts of white hairs are present at the bosses / mouth of the corolla.

4 stamens are found just under the upper lip and hold a tiny violet anther which produce white pollen. The style protrudes out slightly longer than the stamens and have a stigma that is divided into 2 short, unequal branches.

After fertilisation, the corolla drops off and the seeds are developed inside and at the base of the calyx. The seeds are dark brown to almost black, spherical in shape and 1mm in diameter. They drop off from the calyx without any special means of mechanical dispersion.


Information, uses and other details


Nativity and distribution

The distributional range of this plant is shown in the list below:  [WWW-26, WWW-158, WWW-189]

Northern Africa:   Algeria, Morocco,
Europe:   Albania, Andorra, Austria, Bulgaria, Crete, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Macedonia FYR, Montenegro, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Sardinia, Sicily, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom.

According  [WWW-189], this species also occurs in China, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, and United States. The presence in these localities can be assumed of alien origin because Calamintha nepeta is native to Europe.  [WWW-193]. It is a Native of Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa, Western Asia and Eastern Europe according  [WWW-197]. The status of this species in the North African countries (namely Algeria and Morocco who are part of the Mediterranean region) is doubtful. The species has been extensively widespread and naturalised in East USA.  [WWW-189]

Names and Synonyms


Calamintha nepeta (L.) Savi have been given the following vernacular names.  [WWW-09, WWW-193, WWW-195]
ENGLISH: nepitella, basil thyme, calamint, lesser calamint, mountain balm, field balm, mountain mint, runaway robin, alehoof, ground ivy, gill-over-the-ground, savory mint and curly mint.
DEUTSCH: kleine bergminze, bergminze.
FINNISH: käenminttu.
SWEDISH: stenkyndel.


It is often called Nipitella or Nepitella when used for Italian cooking  [WWW-196]

Botanical synonyms (according  [WWW-09] ):
Calamintha nepetoides Jord., Calamintha officinalis Moench, Clinopodium nepeta (L.) Ktze., Melissa nepeta L., Satureja calamintha (L.) Scheele, Satureja nepeta (L.) Scheele

Botanical synonyms (according  [WWW-193] ):
Clinopdium nepeta, Calamintha nepetoides, Satureja calamintha, Satureja nepeta, Calamintha officinalis, Calamintha ascendens, Calamintha parviflora and Melissa calamintha.

Growth preferences


It is hardy to zone 6 and is not frost tender. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by bees and insects. It is noted for attracting wildlife. The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. It also prefers neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can further grow in very alkaline soils. It cannot grow in the complete shade and requires dry or moist soil.  [KF] In Malta, it flowers from October and the seeds soon after within a month. It keeps flowering till Spring.  [SM]

Cultivation details


Prefers a well-drained dry to moist neutral to alkaline soil and a warm sunny position  [200, 238]. Plants are hardy to about -15°c  [187]. This species is very closely related to C. sylvatica, and is considered to be no more than a sub-species by some botanists  [4]. A very good bee plant  [187]. Nepitella is a beautiful perennial for making a herbal border forming a compact mound of shiny , green oregano-like leaves which become covered with lavender blue flowers to a height of 18 inches  [WWW-192]. This plant needs not to be replanted year after year, as it can become dormant in the winter months, then re blossom in the spring. Furthermore, in the Fall, the plant's flowers, which contain seeds, fall to the ground, and will "plant themselves," therefore making a new plant blossom in the Spring. These flowers will start to appear in late August. The life expectancy for an average Lesser Calamint plant is about 3–4 years. The only problem with this plant is that a powdery mildew might occur on the plant.  [WWW-60] Basil Thyme is an attractive petit aromatic ornamental that makes a good choice for the rock garden or for filling in small spaces in the garden.  [WWW-193]

Propagation


Seed - sow spring in a greenhouse and only just cover the seed. It usually germinates in 2 weeks at 21°c  [138]. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and, if they grow sufficiently, plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer otherwise wait until the following spring. Division in spring. Very easy, larger clumps can be planted direct into their permanent positions. It is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are well rooted before planting them out in the summer. Basal cuttings in May or June. They should be rooted in a sandy compost  [245]. Harvest the shoots when they are about 10 - 15cm long with plenty of underground stem. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

Main Chemical Constituents


The following list of chemicals and concentrations (ppm - parts per million) are reported to be found in the plant:  [WWW-66]
  • 1,8-CINEOL - 25 ppm;
  • ALPHA-PINENE - 40 ppm;
  • ALPHA-TERPINEOL - 30 ppm;
  • BETA-CARYOPHYLLENE - 135 ppm;
  • BETA-PINENE - 35 ppm;
  • D-LIMONENE - 385 ppm;
  • EO - 6,000 ppm;
  • ISOMENTHONE - 10 ppm;
  • MENTHOL - 290 ppm;
  • MENTHONE - 590 ppm;
  • P-CYMENE - 65 ppm;
  • PIPERITENONE - 120 ppm;
  • PIPERITENONE-OXIDE - 150 ppm;
  • PIPERITONE-OXIDE - 135 ppm;
  • PONCIRIN - n/a ppm;
  • PULEGONE ( 2,760 ppm;
It contains a camphoraceous, volatile, stimulating oil in common with the other mints. This is distilled by water, but its virtues are better extracted by rectified spirit.  [WWW-03]

Medicinal Uses

The plant has the following medicinal properties according to reference:  [WWW-66]  [359]
Diaphoretic A medicine or agent which promotes perspiration.     [WWW-32]
Expectorant Used to induce the ejection of mucus, phlegm, and other fluids from the lungs and air passages by coughing or spitting.     [WWW-32]
Febrifuge A medicine that lowers body temperature to prevent or alleviate fever     [WWW-32]
Stomachic A medicine that strengthens the stomach and excites its action.     [WWW-32]


Lesser calamint was commonly used as a medicinal herb in medieval times, though is little used by modern herbalists  [238]. It is sometimes cultivated as a medicinal herb for household use. The whole plant is aromatic, diaphoretic, expectorant, febrifuge and stomachic  [4, 148]. The leaves are harvested in July as the plant comes into flower and are dried for later use  [4]. An infusion is beneficial in cases of flatulent colic and weaknesses of the stomach  [4], it is also used to treat depression, insomnia and painful menstruation  [238]. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women since in excess it can cause a miscarriage  [238].

Originating from Southern Europe, this plant was used medicinally during Medieval Times as a digestive aid, a dewormer, to promote sweating, and for insomnia. The tea was a common remedy for stomach complaints  [WWW-192]. Basil Thyme was popular in the Middle Ages as a medicinal herb for the stomach. In The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants, it is still recommended for this as well as respiratory infections. It is not for use by those who are pregnant. Basil Thyme's use as a medicinal herb has been pretty much replaced by peppermint.  [WWW-193]
Info given by  [WWW-194] states that C. nepeta has been used as a nerve tonic, uterine stimulant, and carminative and internally for indigestion, nervous tension, depression, insomnia, painful menses. Crushed leaves have been rubbed on muscle cramps for relief. On the same note,  [406] describes the plant as an aromatic herb that acts as a nerve tonic, increases perspiration, stimulates the uterus, and relieves indigestion while internally used for indigestion, nervous tension, depression, insomnia, feverish colds, and painful menstruation. It should not be given to pregnant women. The latter is also expressed in  [WWW-196] - "Not suitable for use by pregnant women, as they may cause miscarriage."

The part used for medicine is the leaves, which are gathered in July just before flowering, and dried for later use. Lay them out in a single layer out of the sun in an airy place and check them every couple of days, turning them as they dry until they are ready to store in a sealed airtight container out of the light. Make a standard infusion by pouring 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) boiling water over 1oz (30g) dried or 3 handfuls of fresh leaves. Leave to stand for at least 15 minutes to 4 hours, then strain and use. The dosage is up to 1 cup a day, split into 3 doses. Calamint can be used to treat flatulence (‘gas‘ or ‘wind‘), painful periods, depression, insomnia, as an expectorant for non-productive coughs, to reduce fevers and induce sweating.  [WWW-196]

The following info is given in  [WWW-03]:
Diaphoretic, expectorant, aromatic. The whole herb has a sweet, aromatic odour and an infusion of the dried leaves, collected about July, when in their best condition and dried in the same way as Catmint tops, makes a pleasant cordial tea, which was formerly much taken for weaknesses of the stomach and flatulent colic. It is useful in hysterical complaints, and a conserve made of the young fresh tops has been used, for this purpose.

Culpepper says that it 'is very efficacious in all afflictions of the brain,' that it 'relieves convulsions and cramps, shortness of breath or choleric pains in the stomach or bowels,' and that 'it cures the yellow jaundice.' He also recommends it, taken with salt and honey, for killing worms: 'It relieves those who have the leprosy, taken inwardly, drinking whey after it, or the green herb outwardly applied, and that it taketh away black and blue marks in the face, and maketh black scars become well coloured, if the green herb (not the dry) be boiled in wine and laid to the place or the place washed therewith.' He also considers it 'helpful to them that have a tertian ague,' and beneficial in all disorders of the gall and spleen. Gerard says, 'the seede cureth the infirmities of the hart, taketh away sorrowfulnesse which commeth of melancholie, and maketh a man merrie and glad.'  [WWW-03]

Calamints were "officinal" herbs of the pharmacopoeia in medieval times, but are regarded as more ornamental than useful by medicinal herbalists today. According to Culpeper (The English Physician Enlarged, 1653), calamint "hinders conception in women", and "works very violent upon the feminine part" - a view repeated in the Irish Herbal (1775), which recommends it "to expel dead child from womb". The active constituent is pulegone, as found in Mentha pulegium, (see pennyroyal, which is known to cause abortion.  [406] The closely related species - Calamintha officinalis is reported to have the following ethnobotanical uses:
Astringent, Carminative, Emmenagogue, Expectorant, Spasm, Stimulant, Stomachic, Sudorific.  [WWW-66]

Edible Uses


The LESSER CALAMINT (Calamintha nepeta) is a variety of the herb possessing almost superior virtues, with a stronger odour, resembling that of Pennyroyal, and a moderately pungent taste somewhat like Spearmint, but warmer. It is scarcely distinct from C. officinalis, and by some botanists is considered a sub-species. The leaves are more strongly toothed, and it bears its flowers on longer stalks. Both this and the Common Calamint seem to have been used indifferently in the old practice of medicine under the name of Calamint.  [WWW-03]

The leaves have a strong pennyroyal-like fragrance and are more pungent than calamint (C. sylvatica)  [183]. They can be used as a flavouring  [183]. A sweet and aromatic herb tea is made from the leaves  [200]. Lesser calamint was famous as a culinary herb in Tuscany, Italy, where its unusal minty flavor is a distinctive addition to the regional cuisine.  [WWW-192] The Lesser Calamint plant smells like a cross between mint, and oregano, and can attract butterflies.  [WWW-60] Leaves can be used for flavoring; they are similar in aroma to those of common calamint, but more pungent.  [406] Not suitable for use by pregnant women, as they may cause miscarriage.  [WWW-196] The leaves are traditionally used to make a tea and are much stronger and more fragrant than calamint leaves. They have a strong pennyroyal-like scent (but unlike pennyroyal they do not contain any toxic substances). As a result they can be used as a flavouring in sups and stews and go particularly well with tomato- and garlic-based sauces.  [WWW-197]

Short Notes


  • At one time the genus Calamintha contained over 30 species, which due to revisions in taxonomy has now been reduced to around 8.  [WWW-196]
  • Between the common calamint and lesser calamint, the lesser is the stronger, a great illustration of the concept “less is more”.  [WWW-196]
  • Not suitable for use by pregnant women, as they may cause miscarriage.  [WWW-196]
  • Species in the genus Nepeta pleasantly stimulates cats' pheromonic receptors, typically resulting in temporary euphoria.  [WWW-60]
  • Interestingly, researchers say that nepetalactone is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, which is the active ingredient in most insect repellents.  [WWW-199]
  • Cockroaches, rats & mice are also believed to have a strong dislike of catnip and calaminth (due to the active chemical - nepatolacetone) & will avoid places where it grows.  [WWW-199]

Attraction of cats to Calamint and related herbs like Catmint and Catnip


Catmint (Nepeta mussinii) is related to Catnip (Nepeta cataria). Botanically, both are in the genus Nepeta. Related to these species is the Lesser Calaminth (Calamintha nepeta) a subspecies of catnip and several other varieties and hybrids in the Nepeta genus. Many cats are attracted to these plants, but their response tends to be more intense to Catnip. The chemical responsible for their crazy behaviour is called nepetalactone, which is found in the leaves, stems and flowers. The amount of this chemical found in each plant varies a bit by species. It seems that catnip has larger amounts of it and so attracts more felines. Incidentally, all members of the cat family (Felidae) are supposed to be attracted to it, so take care when giving it to lions and tigers.  [WWW-198]

The active ingredient which causes this is an essential oil called nepetalactone, which can be found in the leaves & stem of the plant. Other constituents include Acetic Acid, Alpha & beta-nepetalactone, Citral, Nepetalactone, Geraniol, Dipentene, Citronellol, Nerol, Butyric Acid, Valeric Acid and Tannins.  [WWW-198]

When a cat encounters catnip, it usually sniffs it, rubs against it, licks it & finally eats it. It's actually the sniffing that gets produces the high, it's believed that cats eat catnip to bruise the catnip & therefore release more of the nepetalactone. The high produced will usually last between five & ten minutes.  [WWW-198]

One interesting fact is that when sniffed, catnip will stimulate kitty, however when eaten it will act as a sedative. Around 50% of cats are affected by catnip, and those who are, are affected to differing degrees. Kittens younger than 8 weeks old aren't able to enjoy it's effects. In fact, they show an aversion to it. The response to catnip appears to be inherited as an autosomal gene. It's not just domesticated cats who enjoy the effects of catnip, many lot of wild species also enjoy it. Cats can smell 1 part in a billion in the air. Males & females, entire or desexed, there appears to be no one group who is more readily affected by catnip than another.  [WWW-198]

Nepetalactone causes a hallucinogenic effect. Some say the effects are similar to LSD, others say similar to marijuana. Because cats roll on the floor, which mimics a female in estrus, it has been suggested that catnip acts as an aphrodisiac, but this is unlikely as males react in just the same way. What is likely is the cat is reacting to similar "feel good" pheromones released during sexual courtship/activity. However, non sexual behaviour including playing, chasing & hunting can also be observed. The response to catnip is via the olfactory system. Even cats who can't smell will can still respond to catnip.  [WWW-198]

The effects of catnip seem to change from cat to cat. I have one cat who drools & rolls on the floor, I have another one who becomes very hyperactive, a third becomes aggressive, and picks fights with the other cats when he's had catnip. Catnip is not harmful to your cat. They won't overdose on it. Most cats know when they've had enough & will refuse any further offers.  [WWW-198]<

Mythology


Calamint was derived from the Greek word Kalos, because of the belief in its power to drive away serpents and the dreaded basilisk, the fable king of the serpents. Gerard said "It takes away the infirmities of the heart and taketh away sorrowfulness." It has mint like flavor and can be used in cooking.  [WWW-100]

The volatiles of Calamintha nepeta subsp. glandulosa


The volatiles of C. nepeta subsp. glandulosa were studied by analysis of the essential oil and of the headspace (after concentration on Tenax GC). Amongst the 27 compounds identified in the essential oil, up to 92 % consisted of piperitone oxide and piperitenone oxide, the relative concentrations of which depended on the maturity of the plants. The weak fragrance of the intact plant originated mainly from limonene and piperitone oxide. During the preparation of the essential oil, trans-sabinene hydrate and piperitone oxide isomerized in part into terpinen-4-ol and 4-hydroxypiperitone, respectively.

[ Herman L. De Pootera, Laurent F. De Buycka and Niceas M. Schampa (1985), Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Laboratory of Organic Chemistry, Coupure Links 653 B-9000 Gent, Belgium ]

Composition of the essential oil from Calamintha nepeta (L.) Savi ssp. glandulosa (Req.) P. W. Ball


There are eight species and six subspecies of Calamintha (Lamiaceae) growing in Anatolia. In this study, the essential oil of C. nepeta (L.) Savi ssp. glandulosa (Req.) P. W. Ball, collected in northern Turkey, was investigated. Twenty-five components of the oil, in total amounting to 94%, were identified by GC. The main components were pulegone (40.5%) and menthone (23.6%). © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

[ Sarer, E. and Solakel Pançali, S. (1998); Composition of the essential oil from Calamintha nepeta (L.) Savi ssp. glandulosa (Req.) P. W. Ball. Flavour and Fragrance Journal, 13: 31–32.]

Composizione dell'olio essenziale di Calamintha nepeta subsp. glandulosa


Composition of the essential oil in Calamintha nepeta subsp. glandulosa. - A study on qualitative and quantitative composition and on the percentage yield of essential oil during the vegetative cycle of Calamintha nepeta subsp. glandulosa has been carried out in different areas of the Appennino marchigiano. The percentage yield presents its maximum values during blooming period (month of July). Gas chromatography revealed that the principal component of essential oil is carvone, followed by carvacrol and limonene.

[ Bice Bellomaria; Giuseppa Valentini (1985); Plant Biosystems - An International Journal Dealing with all Aspects of Plant Biology, Volume 119, Issue 5 & 6 1985 , pages 237 - 245.]

Chemical Composition and Antimicrobial Activity of the Essential Oil of Calamintha nepeta (L.) Savi ssp. glandulosa (Req.) P.W. Ball from Montenegro


An oil of Calamintha nepeta (L.) Savi ssp. glandulosa (Req.) P. W. Ball obtained by hydrodistillation was analyzed by GC and GC/MS and 36 constituents were identified (98.4%). The main constituents in the oil were pulegone (37.5%), menthone (17,6%), piperitenone (15.0%) and piperitone (10.2%). The antimicrobial activity of the oil was screened against Aspergillus niger, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enteritidis, Bacillus subtilis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The microorganisms were found to be susceptible to the oil.

[ Kitic, D | Jovanovic, T | Ristic, M | Palic, R | Stojanovic, G (2002); Journal of Essential Oil Research Vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 150-152. Mar-Apr 2002. ]

Antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of Calamintha nepeta and its constituent pulegone against bacteria and fungi.


The chemical composition of the essential oil of Calamintha nepeta and its antimicrobial activity against Listeria monocytogenes, Bacillus cereus, Salmonella veneziana, S. paratyphi B, S. typhimurium, Fusarium moniliforme, Botrytis cinerea, Aspergillus niger and Pyricularia oryzae have been studied. Moreover the main constituents of the oil (limonene, menthone, pulegone, menthol) have been tested against the same microorganisms. Only pulegone showed antimicrobial activity, particularly against all the Salmonella species. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

[ Flamini, G., Cioni, P. L., Puleio, R., Morelli, I. and Panizzi, L. (1999), Antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of Calamintha nepeta and its constituent pulegone against bacteria and fungi. Phytotherapy Research, 13: 349–351. ]

Further raxonomy and subspecies of Calamintha nepeta.


At one time the genus Calamintha contained over 30 species, which due to revisions in taxonomy has now been reduced to around 8.  [WWW-196] In the Flora of Europe (Flora Europaea by Tutin et. al -  [50] ) 5 Calamintha species are given (possibly C. sylvatica subsp. ascendens refer to the 6th species). These key out as below:

1 Calyx (10-)12-16 mm; corolla 25-40 mm ............................... 1. grandiflora
1 Calyx 3-10 mm; corolla not more than 22 mm
2 Calyx with dense, long, patent hairs; leaves densely grey-tomentose ....................................................... 4. cretica
2 Calyx with short, appressed or crispate hairs; or with sparse long, patent hairs
3 Leaves densely grey-tomentose on both surfaces; upper calyx-teeth less than 0·5 mm ......................................... 5. incana
3 Leaves green and relatively sparsely hairy, at least on the upper surface; upper calyx-teeth 0·5-2 mm
4 Lower calyx-teeth 2-4 mm, usually densely long-ciliate; hairs in mouth of calyx ± included ................................... 2. sylvatica
4 Lower calyx-teeth 1-2 mm, without or with very few long cilia; hairs in mouth of calyx somewhat exserted ..................... 3. nepeta


Calamintha nepeta is further subdivided into 2 subspecies - Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta and Calamintha nepeta subsp. glandulosa. These two are distinguished by the following key :  [50]

Cymes (5-)10- to 20-flowered, the peduncle 8-22 mm, the secondary branches 5-10 mm;
leaves 20-35(-45) mm, with 5-9 teeth on each side ..................................... (a) subsp. nepeta
Cymes 5- to 11(-15)-flowered, the peduncle 0-5(-10) mm, the secondary branches 0-5 mm;
leaves 10-20(-25) mm, subentire or with up to 5 teeth on each side ........... (b) subsp. glandulosa


 [WWW-189] gives a further 3 subspecies, C. nepeta subsp. spruneri (recorded from France), C. nepeta subsp. sylvelica (no substantiate record) and C. nepeta subsp. sylvatica (occurring in Spain)

Personal Observations


Which subspecies is found in Malta?
All plants examined so far have resulted to be Calamintha nepeta subsp. glandulosa.  [SM] Apart the smaller leaves and reduced inflorescence, this subspecies posses numerous dark glands located at the lower surface of the leaves. These can be seen in few macro images in the photogallery below. This subspecies is also recorded from Spain, Italy and Greece. According  [50] the distribution of C. nepeta subsp. nepeta is mountains of South & South/Central Europe while that of C. nepeta subsp. glandulosa is South and West Europe, without giving specific countries.

Photo Gallery   (48 Images)

IMAGE: CLMNP-01
Photo of several lilac flowers with darker markings at the mouth.
IMAGE: CLMNP-02
Photo of several flowers in blossom.
IMAGE: CLMNP-03
Photo of lilac flowers with dark markings at the central part of the lower lip.
IMAGE: CLMNP-04
Photo of inflorescence taken at Wied il-Kbir, Dwejra on Dec 2010.
IMAGE: CLMNP-05
Photo of flowers and their calices along one of the many flowering branches the plant produces.
IMAGE: CLMNP-06
Photo of a specimen with blossomed flowers placed in a symmetrical fashion.
IMAGE: CLMNP-07
Close up image of the flowers of previous specimen.
IMAGE: CLMNP-08
Close up image of 2 flowers showing long hairs at the mouth of the corolla, and short hair at the exterior of corolla tube.
IMAGE: CLMNP-09
Annotated image showing the main floral parts.
IMAGE: CLMNP-10
Close up image of a pair of flowers each having several violet speckles on the median lobe of the lower lip.
IMAGE: CLMNP-11
Close up photo of flower showing the lower lip which is further divided into 3 lobes, with the central one being bifid. Note the brush of hairs at the mouth of the flower.
IMAGE: CLMNP-12
Close up image of a pair of flowers each having several violet speckles on the median lobe of the lower lip.
IMAGE: CLMNP-13
Photo of two flowers and several buds.
IMAGE: CLMNP-14
Close up photo of flower (front view) showing the 4 stamens at the upper lip and hairs at the mouth of the lower lip.
IMAGE: CLMNP-15
Close up photo of flower (front view) showing the 4 stamens with tiny anthers located just below the roof of the the upper lip.
IMAGE: CLMNP-16
Arrangement of leaves and flowering cymes at the flowering branch. Leaves are opposite but retracted backwards to make space for the flowering cymes growing from the axils of the leaves.
IMAGE: CLMNP-17
Photo of another flower in situ.
IMAGE: CLMNP-18
Photo of flowers of another specimen.
IMAGE: CLMNP-19
Photo of lateral view of flower showing the calyx (with 2 longer teeth below), the hairy corolla tube and the corolla lips. Also visible are the protruding stamens just under the upper lip, and the longer stigma with style made of 2 unequal branches.
IMAGE: CLMNP-20
Photo of flower in dew.
IMAGE: CLMNP-21
Photo of an albino form of Calamintha nepeta.
IMAGE: CLMNP-22
Another photo of the albino specimen.
IMAGE: CLMNP-23
Photo of calices of Calamintha nepeta.
IMAGE: CLMNP-24
Enlarged image of the calices from different angles showing the arrangement and shape of the 5 teeth at the mouth. The lower 2 teeth are longer and acute, while the upper three are broad triangular in shape.
IMAGE: CLMNP-25
Microscope image (x20) showing the long teeth of the lower part of the calyx. Note the brush of white bristles at the mouth of the calyx.
IMAGE: CLMNP-26
Microscope image (x20) showing the structure of the calyx. It has 13 longitudinal ribbed veins and covered by short white hairs.
IMAGE: CLMNP-27
Photo of calyces on graph paper (each box = 2mm). They are 4mm long and 1.5mm wide. The longer teeth is about 1mm long.
IMAGE: CLMNP-28
Another photo of 7 calices on graph paper showing their dimensions.
IMAGE: CLMNP-29
Photo of stem and side branches. The stem is square in cross section and covered by short soft white hair. The leaves are also covered by similar hairs but more sparse.
IMAGE: CLMNP-30
Photo of leaves, small, ovate shape and with simple pinnate venation. This specimen is not very hairy.
IMAGE: CLMNP-31
Photo of plant in its vegetative form.
IMAGE: CLMNP-32
Photo of a hairy specimen.
IMAGE: CLMNP-33
Photo of leaves. Density of hairs differs between specimens.
IMAGE: CLMNP-34
Photo of leaves covered with long white hair.
IMAGE: CLMNP-35
Photo of some leaves on graph paper to indicate their size. Since the leaves are not larger from 2cm, the subsp. is not subsp. nepeta but the other - subsp. glandulosa.
IMAGE: CLMNP-36
Photo of abaxial surface of leaf, with dense white hair.
IMAGE: CLMNP-37
Photo of leaves of another specimen which is very hairy.
IMAGE: CLMNP-38
Photo of another specimens with sparse hairs.
IMAGE: CLMNP-39
Photo of leaves, egg-shaped, small (seldom more than 2cm long) and a smooth to shallow-crenate outline. One morphological character that distinguish subsp. glandulosa (in the photo) from subsp. nepeta is the smaller leaves with fewer teeth at each side (5 teeth compared to a maximum of 9 in the latter).
IMAGE: CLMNP-40
Photo of leaves on a young branch.
IMAGE: CLMNP-41
Microscopic image (x20) of the lower surface of the leaves. One can note the simple hairs and the dark green glands. Due to these glands (and other morphological characters), the subspecies is glandulosa.
IMAGE: CLMNP-42
Microscopic image (x20) of the lower surface of the leaf revealing the dark green glands present uniformly along the surface. So far, all species examined from Malta resulted to be Calamintha nepeta subsp. glandulosa.
IMAGE: CLMNP-43
Microscopic image (x40) of the lower surface of the leaf with arrows indicating the dark green glands.
IMAGE: CLMNP-44
Photo of a flowering plant in Autumn. Some specimen takes a creeping habit.
IMAGE: CLMNP-45
Photo of the sub-shrubby plant in situ. This specimen is erect.
IMAGE: CLMNP-46
Photo of the habitat of the plant - vegetated rocky ground. In Malta, this species is frequent in rocky valley sides.
IMAGE: CLMNP-47
Photo of the small (c. 1mm), globular seeds that are dark brown to almost black when fully ripe.
IMAGE: CLMNP-48
Illustration of Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta from Wikispecies.org.

Links & Further info

> Further info from Findmeplants.co.uk. > Gardening / Propagation tips from FingerGardening.com
> Typification of Melissa calamintha L., M. nepeta L., and Thymus glandulosus Req. (Lamiaceae), with Some Systematic Observations (by F. Garbari, C. E. Jarvis and A. M. Pagni). > Notes on neglected and underutilized crops cultivated in Italy (by Karl Hammer, Gaetano Laghetti and Klaus Pistrick).
Search for Calamintha nepeta on the FORUM of MaltaWildPlants.com

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