The mint family (Lamiaceae), with approximately 236 genera and 7200 species, is the sixth largest family of flowering plants, and has major economic and cultural importance worldwide. While the Lamiaceae has been recognized as a family for centuries, the family was only recently defined in its current broad sense (Cantino & Sanders 1986; Cantino 1992; Wagstaff et al. 1995, 1998; Wagstaff & Olmstead 1997; Harley et al. 2004; see also Junell 1934 for an earlier and very similar classification). Despite recognizable features such as quadrangular stems, opposite leaves, and hypogynous flowers, which are nearly ubiquitous in the family, the only clear synapomorphy is a unique ovary anatomy. Nevertheless, since its expansion to include members of former Verbenaceae, Lamiaceae possess remarkable diversity, including expansive secondary chemistry, a cosmopolitan distribution, and a broad range of growth forms and life histories (e.g. ephemeral herbs [Pogogyne] to long-lived trees [Tectona]), floral architectures (e.g. actinomorphic to strongly bilabiate flowers, with 2-18 stamens), and ecological niche preferences (e.g. rainforest canopy dominants [Tectona], high alpine scree [Marmoritis], and desert halophytes [Saccocalyx]).
There are currently seven major groups, or subfamilies, recognized in the Lamiaceae. These include Ajugoideae, Lamioideae, Nepetoideae, Prostantheroideae, Scutellarioideae, and Symphorematoideae. Nepetoideae is the largest group in Lamiaceae, and it includes ~3700 species or approximately half the total species diversity in the family. This large subfamily subdivided into three tribes: Mentheae, Ocimeae, and Elsholtzieae. Many of the familiar culinary herbs (e.g. basil, oregano, sage, spearmint) and ornamental mints (e.g. bee balm, coleus, salvia) are from Nepetoideae. Moreover, the subfamily has a virtually worldwide distribution, but is relatively scarce in Australia and New Zealand.
Use our Taxonomy Browser to explore available information about Lamiaceae species.