Clustered Mountain Mint and Ailanthus Moth.jpg

Published 11:46 am Saturday, October 14, 2023

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By Stella Payne

Mountain Mint,  a robust grower and a good source of nectar, attracting  bees, butterflies, moths, and other beneficial insects.   I love how this plant  draws  an amazing diversity of pollinators. During the summer, I find myself checking, not what is blooming, but what pollinators are buzzing over the mountain mint. The level of activity, on a sunny day, when it is in full bloom is incredible.  

Pycnanthemum muticum or Clustered Mountain Mint was selected in 2018 by the Garden club of America at its Plant of the Year. It has broad green leaves which whiten on their upper surfaces near the flower clusters. The tiny pinkish-spotted white flowers bloom against this backdrop  of pale silvery green leaves. This native perennial grows up to 3 feet tall blooming from June to fall. It is not picky, growing in sun and partial shade, wet or dry conditions, and if you have a spot where you need help with erosion control, it is happy to oblige.

It does not need staking and the leaves have a refreshing smell. Like most plants in the mint family it does spread rapidly,  That does not bother me as it is easy to dig or pull up. I can put them in pots, or in other locations around the garden or  give them away. They do well contained and co-exit well with other plants.

Mountain Mint is found in most counties of Virginia. They range over the eastern and central regions of the US and Canada.  Another common name  for Pycnanthemum muticum is “Short-toothed” mountain mint.

The insect in the picture is an Ailanthus Webworm Moth. This is one of many pollinators that visit Mountain Mint. It was know under the name Atteva punctella.  A  very common, colorful insect in the eastern US.  You will see the moth from spring to midsummer.   They are active during the day but also are attracted to lights at night. The larvae form large communal webs at the ends of branches. Size of the insect is from ¾ inch to 1 ¼ inches. It was thought to be originally a native of Florida south to Costa Rica.  It is a member of the Ermine Moth family.  

The caterpillar eats the foliage of deciduous trees, shrubs, including the introduced very invasive Alianthus tree (Tree of Heaven)f rom China and Taiwan.  The caterpillars spin loose cocoons low on the host plant or among litter on the ground. There is one generation a year.

In the coming weeks I will  plant my tubbed Mountain Mint in the ground.

If you are lucky enough like I was, someone may give you the plant. If not Southern Branch Nursery, 1412 Benefit Rd, Chesapeake, has all varieties of mountain mint. Give them a call to make sure they are open. Or New Earth Farm Market, 1885 Indian River Road VB.

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