Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Wild Basil - Clinopodium vulgare   L.
Members of Lamiaceae:
Members of Clinopodium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Lamiales » Family Lamiaceae
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AuthorL.
DistributionPresent throughout the Mountains; widely scattered in the northern Piedmont near the VA border; disjunct to Cabarrus County in the southern Piedmont. Though often thought to be not native to the region, or at least partly exotic, Weakley (2018) considers it as a native species in NC and neighboring states, though stating "Plants in our area reflect both native and introduced genotypes."

This species occurs in Europe as well as in much of North America, certainly a Northern species but ranging south to most of VA, and parts of NC and TN. Surprisingly not yet recorded from GA or SC.
AbundanceCommon in the Mountains, and can be locally abundant there; rare in the far northern Piedmont, and very rare south to Cabarrus County.
HabitatThis is a species mostly of open areas, in full sun. It can be numerous in a wide variety of meadows and fields, as well as on grassy balds, pastures, and roadsides. It is scarce inside forested areas (in NC), but at least can be found along wooded borders. Some populations may indeed not be native, but this would be very difficult to prove.
PhenologyBlooms from July to September, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a slender and usually unbranched herb, quite hairy, growing only to about 1 foot tall. It has fairly small, paired, opposite leaves, ovate to lanceolate in shape, with a short petiole. Each leaf is about 1.5-2 inches long and half as wide, entire to barely serrate, and quite hairy. From several of the upper leaf axils grow the flower clusters, each densely flowered, with numerous purplish-pink flowers facing horizontally, each about 1/2-inch long. The flower cluster looks quite hairy or woolly, owing to long hairs on the calyx lobes and the bracts. The Blephilia species look somewhat similar but they have a single conical or tubular flower cluster that is terminal on the stem and branches, not existing in several leaf axils. You should not have much trouble finding the species as long as you spend time in man-made habitats, such as meadows, roadsides, and other cleared areas. In the Northern states, it can occur in forest interiors, but in our area only a few records seem to be from within natural habitats.
Taxonomic CommentsOften named as Satureja vulgaris, but most current references have moved the species to a different genus, now with the name of Clinopodium vulgare. Surprisingly, as it is such a wide-ranging species, Weakley (2018) does not list varieties or subspecies.


Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS4? [S4]
Global RankG5
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