WILD BASIL

Clinopodium vulgare

Mint / Dead-Nettle Family [Lamiaceae]  

month8jul month8july month8aug month8sep month8sept

status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8mauve
 
inner
inner8purple
 
morph
morph8zygo
 
petals
petalsZ2
 
type
typeZtieredwhorls
 
stem
stem8square
 
smell
smell8herb
herb

6th Aug 2009, Prestatyn Hillside, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
Up to two foot tall, often much shorter, with pale-green mint-like leaves.


6th Aug 2009, Prestatyn Hillside, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
Flowers in whorls mostly at the top of the stem, with a profusion of empty toothed purple-brown sepal tubes in the centre of the whorl.


6th Aug 2009, Prestatyn Hillside, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
As here, it often grows an extension atop an already existing whorl of flowers, with a second higher but often smaller whorl of flowers and sepal tubes. The square stems are not continuous.


6th Aug 2009, Prestatyn Hillside, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are a shade of lilac, mauve or light purple with two lips, an upper lip with just one lobe, and a lower lip with three or four lobes giving the impression of a flower with 4 or 5 petals. note the opposite pair of leaves between the two whorls. The leaves, in opposite pairs, with two much smaller leaves at right-angles where they adjoin the stem, are hairy, as are the square stems.


6th Aug 2009, Prestatyn Hillside, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
The sepal tubes are purplish-brown with five teeth. Most are empty apart from those on the periphery. Note the beginnings of an extra tier of flowers: the two small leaves in the centre which are the beginnings of an extra non-continuous stem, atop of which another whorl of flowers will eventually develop.


6th Aug 2009, Prestatyn Hillside, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
The sepal tubes are covered in hairs.


6th Aug 2009, Prestatyn Hillside, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
The 2-lipped, 4- or 5-lobed, flowers extrude quite some distance from the sepal tubes.


6th Aug 2009, Prestatyn Hillside, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
The leaves are light or apple-green, with distinct, curved veins. The edges are slightly round-toothed.


Easily confused with : Black Horehound, Field Woundwort (apart from Field Woundworts' rarity), Limestone Woundwort (which is even rarer), and other members of the Dead-Nettle family. [The other members of the same Clinopodium Genus (the Calamints) are quite dissimilar].

Identifying Features : the tiered whorls of mauve-coloured flowers with many empty sepal tubes on dis-continuous stems. Unlike many mints, the leaves are not sharply toothed, and have slightly rippled edges instead.

No relation to : Garden Basil [Ocimum basilicum] which still belongs to the same family (Lamiaceae), but is in a different Genus (Ocimum). Garden Basil has white flowers as opposed to the mauve coloured flowers of Wild Basil, and it also smells much more strongly (of Basil, a herb used mostly in Italian cooking).

Wild Basil has the propensity to grow another whorl of flowers atop an already existing top-most whorl, rather like a candelabra. Of course, many (but not all) Dead-Nettle Family plants have chandelier-like whorls of flowers up a continuous and un-broken stem, but the chandeliers in Wild Basil are different: they are not on a part of the same stem, but on a new stem grown from somewhere near the middle of the existing topmost whorl. Jerusalem Sage and Turkish Sage also exhibit this behaviour. The separate tiered stems are often thinner than those below them; and the corresponding whorls not as large: much more like a (albeit upside-down) chandelier.

The essential oil obtained from Basil contains Linalool (15-50%) and Estragole (Methyl Chavicol) as the two main constituents, with varying smaller amounts of Camphor, Eugenol, Limonene and Citronellol.

Citronellol is a monoterpenoid which occurs in two distinct enantiomers or stereo-isomers, (+)-Citronellol (in citronella oils, and the (-)-Citronella isomer which is the more common and occurs in rose oils and Pelargonium. It is used in perfumes, but should be avoided by those allergic to perfumes such as the author. Both smell of rose petals in slightly differing ways.


  Clinopodium vulgare  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Lamiaceae  

Distribution
 family8Mint / Dead-Nettle family8Lamiaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Clinopodium
Clinopodium
(Calamints)

WILD BASIL

Clinopodium vulgare

Mint / Dead-Nettle Family [Lamiaceae]  

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