Cunila origanoides (L.) Britt. - Wild Oregano, Dittany

Cunila origanoides plant

Family - Lamiaceae

Stems - To +50cm tall, from thin rhizomes or a small caudex, multiple from base, 4-angled, sparse lanate above, glabrescent below, branching, erect, brown and appearing woody.

Cunila origanoides stem

Leaves - Opposite, decussate, sessile, ovate, acute, rounded at base, coarse shallow serrate, punctate, sparse pubescent below, pubescent on midrib above, to 4cm long, 2cm broad, fragrant.

Cunila origanoides leaves

Inflorescence - Terminal and axillary compound cymes. Each division of inflorescence subtended by a pair of minute oblong bracts. Bracts to 3mm long, punctate. Divisions of inflorescence also with tufts of hispid hairs.

Cunila origanoides inflorescence

Flowers - Corolla tube to 3mm long, pubescent externally, long hirsute internally at base, punctate, 4-lobed(weakly bilabiate). Lobes to 1.3mm long, blunt to rounded at apex, glabrous internally, pubescent and punctate externally. Upper lobe notched at apex. Corolla lobes and tube purple, with darker purple spotting internally. Stamens 2, adnate at base of corolla tube, well exserted. Filaments pinkish-purple, to 5mm long, glabrous. Anthers yellowish-purple, .6mm broad, .5mm long. Style lilac, glabrous, to 4mm long, exserted. Stigma 2-lobed. Ovary 4-parted. Calyx tube to 2.5mm long, punctate, glabrous externally villous internally(the hairs white), 10-nerved, 5-lobed. Lobes .4mm long, glabrous externally, acute. Nutlets to 1.3mm long at maturity, brown, glabrous.

Cunila origanoides flowerSingle corolla and calyx.

Flowering - July - November.

Habitat - Dry open rocky woods, slopes, ridges, open ground, prairies.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This little aromatic plant is sometimes overlooked in the field but is quite nice. The leaves of the plant are quite minty and have been brewed traditionally as a tea for medicinal and culinary uses. The tea was used to treat headaches, fevers, and even snakebites.
This species, and a handful of others, are also producers of something called "frost flowers." Frost flowers are thin, layered eruptions of ice crystals which burst from the xylem of the plant stems in early fall. If you want to learn more about frost flowers see the October/November 2000 issue of Missouri Conservationist magazine.

Photographs taken at Roaring River State Park, Barry County, MO., 8-25-00, and in the Ozark Scenic Riverways, Shannon County, MO., 8-28-03.


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