Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Clustered Bushmint - Hyptis alata   (Rafinesque) ShinnersOnly member of Hyptis in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Lamiales » Family Lamiaceae
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Author(Rafinesque) Shinners
DistributionThroughout the southeastern part of the state, ranging north to Hyde and Beaufort counties, but inward only to Bladen County.

This is a Coastal Plain species ranging north to southeastern NC, south to southern FL, and west to eastern TX.
AbundanceFairly common to locally common, though mainly in conservation lands; less numerous away from such protected sites.
HabitatThis is a species of wet to damp, acidic pinelands. It grows in wet portions of pine savannas, in ditches, along pocosin/savanna ecotones, wet places in powerline clearings, and other mostly sunny wet places close to pine stands.
PhenologyBlooms from late June into September, and fruits from late summer into October.
IdentificationThis is a fairly tall and slender, mostly unbranched, herb that grows to 2.5-3' tall. It has scattered opposite leaves along the stem, generally lanceolate to rhombic-lanceolate, the blade about 4" long but only about 1.5" wide, with often long tapering leaf bases toward the stem, and with scattered small serrations. The leaves might not attract attention or help you identify this plant, but when in flower it looks like nothing else in the state, as this is the only member of the genus in the region. Each plant has numerous heads of densely packed flowers into a globose "ball" (actually, the top half of a ball) about 1" across, each on a long and ascending/erect stalk (of about 1" long) in an upper leaf axil. In effect, the upper part of the plant contains about 10-20 such white to creamy-white "balls" of flowers in a narrow cylindrical shape up to about 6-8" tall. Each white flower is only about 1/4" long, spotted in purple; there are also white to pale green bracts that subtend each of the flower clusters, as well. As the plants tend to grow in colonies, such a grouping of plants in bloom is certainly impossible to miss. Thankfully, you should be able to readily find the plant in late summer in a number of the conservation areas dominated by Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris).
Taxonomic CommentsWeakley (2018) indicates that the nominate variety -- Hyptis alata var. alata -- is the one found in the state.

Other Common Name(s)Cluster Bushmint, Musky Mint
State RankS3
Global RankG5
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