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 – quadrangular stems, opposite leaves, and hypogynous flowers – that 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]).
Within the Lamiaceae, there are currently seven major groups, or subfamilies recognized. The largest of these groups is the subfamily Nepetoideae, which contains about 3700 species and is further subdivided into three tribes, the Mentheae, Ocimeae, Elsholtzieae. Many of the familiar culinary (for example, Basil, Oregano, Sage, Spearmint) and horticultural (Bee-Balm, Coleus, Salvia) mints are from the Nepetoideae. The Nepetoideae has a virtually worldwide distribution, but is relatively scarce in Australia and New Zealand. The other six subfamilies within the Lamiaceae are the Ajugoideae, the Lamioideae, the Prostantheroideae, the Scutellarioideae, the Symphorematoideae, and the Viticoideae. There are also 10 genera that are currently unplaced with regard to subfamily.