Freitag, 23. September 2011

Plant of the Day /(September 23th, 2011) - Melissa officinalis L. (ssp. officinalis)

Today's “Plant of the Day” is Melissa officinalis L., known as “Lemon balm” in English and as “Zitronenmelisse” in German. It's a species from the Lamiaceae family; the family with the characteristic lip-shaped flowers, of which I've shown some species before.

M. officinalis - habitus

It's a herb, which can reach heights between 20 and 80 centimetres. The stem is square (as with all Lamiaceae), richly branched but only slightly hairy. Many of these hairs are glands. As with all plants of the Lamiaceae, the leaves are decussate. They've a stalk, which is between 1 and 3,5 centimetres long and have an egg-shaped to rhomboidal leaf-blade with rough sawn edges. Each plant has also short, underground stolons.

M. officinalis  - leaf

Both, leaves and stem, smell like lemon, if you crush them between your fingers.

The inflorescences are small whorls with normally four to six (sometimes twelve) flowers per inflorescence. Theses flowers are very small (only 1 to 1,5 centimetres long), with green sepals and cream petals. As with all Lamiaceae, the petals are fused to an upper lip and a lower lip.

M. officinalis - flowers & leaves

Originally, this plant is native to the Eastern Mediterranean Areas like Turkey, Iraq, Iran or Pakistan, but as very popular spice plant, you can find it also in many other regions of the world like Middle Europe in e. g. gardens but also clearings and forests. It prefers warm, dry places with humus- and nutrient-rich soils on sand or clay.

M. officinalis - flowers & leaves

Because of its lemon fragrance, M. officinalis is a very popular spice plant, which is used for salad dressings, teas or liqueurs but also as drug in some cases.

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