Wood calamint (Clinopodium menthifolium)

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Wood calamints in flower
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Wood calamint fact file

Wood calamint description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumAnthophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderLamiales
FamilyLamiaceae
GenusClinopodium (4)

Wood calamint produces pink or purplish-pink flowers, which measure 15 to 22 mm in length, and have two 'lips' of fused petals that are often speckled with darker pink spots (1). The flowers are arranged on flower spikes in whorls. The plant is covered in fairly long hairs, and has dark green oval-shaped leaves. When the leaves are crushed they give off a distinct minty aroma (1).

Synonyms
Calamintha sylvatica.
Size
Height: 40-60 cm (1)
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Wood calamint biology

This perennial species flowers from July to October, and can spread by means of thin stems called 'rhizomes' that pass along the surface of the soil, from which new plants sprout and roots become established (1). This form of reproduction is known as 'vegetative reproduction'. Wood calamint can also reproduce by seeds; four small 'nutlets' (single-seeded fruits with a tough woody coat) are produced by each flower, these fall to the ground when they are ripe (1).

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Wood calamint range

Rare in Great Britain, since 1843 this plant has been found only in a single dry chalk valley on the Isle of Wight (5) where it currently has an extremely restricted distribution of a just few square meters (3). In Europe it is known from most countries, but it does not reach into Scandinavia (3).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Wood calamint habitat

Grows in lightly-shaded conditions at the edges of woodlands and in scrub, on chalky soils (5).

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Wood calamint status

Classified as Endangered in Great Britain (3) and fully protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (3).

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Wood calamint threats

Wood calamint was once fairly abundant at its single location, but the decline in coppicing in the 1940s resulted in a drastic decline, which has been halted recently by the reintroduction of coppice management (5). Competition with aggressive species is the biggest threat currently facing this plant (3).

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Wood calamint conservation

Measures to conserve wood calamint have been in operation since 1962, when just five plants survived (3). Hazel trees have been coppiced and ground cover has been cleared at the site, which has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) (3). Furthermore, invasive plants and tall herbs such as the nettle (Urtica dioica) have been removed (5). The species is still endangered despite these efforts, however, and at present the population is estimated to number in the low hundreds (3).

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Authentication

Information authenticated by Plantlife, the wild plant conservation charity:
http://www.plantlife.org.uk

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Glossary

Calcareous
Containing free calcium carbonate, chalky.
Coppice
Coppicing is a traditional form of woodland management in which trees are cut close to the base of the trunk. Re-growth occurs in the form of many thin poles. Coppiced woodlands are cut in this way on rotation, producing a mosaic of different stages of re-growth.
Lips
In plants, petal or petals that form a lobe.
Perennial
Plants that live for at least three seasons; after an initial period they produce flowers once a year.
Rhizomes
Rhizomes are thickened, branching, creeping storage stems. Although most rhizomes grow laterally just along or slightly below the soil's surface, some grow several inches deep. Roots grow from the underside of the rhizome, and during the growing season new growth sprouts from buds along the top. A familiar rhizome is the ginger used in cooking.
Vegetative reproduction
Type of asexual reproduction (reproduction without recombination of genetic material) that results in the propagation of plants using only the vegetative tissues such as leaves or stems. The resulting plant is genetically identical to the original plant. A well-known example of this is the reproduction of strawberry plants from 'runners'.
Whorl
In animals, the spiral or convolutions in the shell of a snail. In plants, a set of leaves, flowers, or branches that spring from a stem at the same point and encircle it.
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References

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September 2002)
    http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
  2. Grey-Wilson, C. (1994) Eyewitness Handbooks: Wild Flowers of Britain and Northwest Europe. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  3. Wigginton, M. J. (1999) British Red Data Books 1; Vascular Plants. 3rd Edition. JNCC, Peterborough.
  4. Preston, C. D., Pearman, D. A., Dines, T. D. (2002) New Atlas of the Flora of Britain and Ireland. Oxford University Press, London.
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Image credit

Wood calamints in flower  
Wood calamints in flower

© Andrew N. Gagg

Andrew N. Gagg
'Town House Two'
Fordbank Court
Henwick Road
Worcester
WR2 5PF
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 190 574 8515
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/a.n.gagg/photo/photoflora.html

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