Bergamot mint is a generally erect glabrous perennial
growing to about 3' tall. There is considerable disagreement or
lack of consistency regarding the actual taxonomy of this species. The
Jepson Manual lists M. citrata as a synonym for M. Xpiperita,
which is generally recognized as a hybrid of M. spicata (spearmint)
and M. aquatica (water mint). The X in the name stands
for a hybrid species. Munz's Flora of Southern California
has piperita as a pure species, but does not include citrata.
L.H. Bailey's Manual of Cultivated Plants lists both piperita
and citrata as pure species, as does Abrams' Illustrated Flora
of the Pacific States. Both of these older sources may just
not have recognized that piperita was a hybrid species. The USDA
Plants Database lists both Mentha citrata and M. piperita
ssp. citrata as synonyms of M. aquatica. Although the
taxonomy is a mess, Xpiperita and citrata are obviously
very closely related, but since there do seem to be differences between
them, it seems to me to make the most sense to treat this taxon as a
form, variety or subspecies of Xpiperita (peppermint). And
since I am treating it separately, it makes sense to call it by its
own name. The leaves are petioled and at least when young are
ovate to suborbicular, and quite obtuse. Later the plant's upper
leaves do tend to be somewhat more lanceolate and almost acute-tipped.
The leaves are also shallowly serrate, a feature that again becomes
more pronounced with age. The stems are often purplish (see the last
picture), but this coloration appears to be reduced at anthesis. This
mint produces whorls of rose-purple to white flowers at narrowly-spaced
nodes in thick dense terminal heads or spikes, and sometimes (but not
always) also in the upper leaf axils. It grows in moist ground
or other wet places like stream edges or drying streambeds, blooming
from July to November, and is naturalized from Europe.
Click here for Latin name derivations: 1) Mentha
Pronunciation: MEN-tha pi-per-EYE-ta.
Click here for Botanical