Thursday, April 3, 2014

Mysteries solved #1 - the pinesol plant

My mystery 'pinesol plant': Guarijiro Conivari

My style of gardening and land care is sort of brutal. I tend to like more plants in the ground than in pots so they can 'forage for themselves,' as it were. I grow free range plants. ^_^

I also rarely weed, on purpose. When wild grasses grow, I let them grow and then use them for mulch. When an unknown plant pops up, I let it stay to see what it is - the birds often brings some interesting ones. A tree, a native flower, a grass, whatever. I have had native ground cherries (tomatillos) grow this way, chiltepines, Texas tobacco, a whitethorn acacia, globe mallows, hordes of wild flowers…and the mystery plants. The ones that I haven't a clue about, that no one can identify.

One of these has been what I refer to as my Pinesol Plant. It looks like this:
My pinesol plant
This started growing on the side of my west facing yard near the north wall in an area that gets full sun, all day long. I had dug it up to mess around a bit and make a 'monsoon garden,' where I made small swales along an area where the water runs, to catch some and see what would grow.

It has reseeded for three years now without watering. And it's interesting as all heck. It smells like strong pinesol to me. I mean full out, I just opened a bottle and stuck my nose in it, pinesol. It does not smell minty to me (although to some it seems to).

This is one leaf:


These are the leaves at the top:


These are the stems:


And these are the flowers:


Nobody has been able to identify this, and it has driven me nuts for years, because I keep thinking: anything with this strong a smell is usually really nasty, or really medicinal.

And now the mystery has been solved. This is in all likelihood a Hyptis suaveolens. Years ago, I planted some seeds from Native Seed Search uphill from this site. Among the seeds I planted, I know I bought something called Guarijio Conivari (HB008 in their catalog), another name for Hyptis suaveolens. And a lovely gal at the Tucson Backyard Gardeners group finally helped me identify it (with many others chipping in to try and help out, too!). 

And I am SO happy, because not only is this medicinal as a tea for upset stomach, ulcers, diarrhea (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874113007174) , it also has insecticidal properties, and the seeds are often used like chia, to make a mucilaginous drink (you can find the seeds in Mexico sold as 'chan.').

I LOVE when mystery plants turn out to be something I can use!!

NOTE: I'm not a botanist or anyone with any kind of authority to officially identify plants, medicines, or foods. So please, if you are looking at plants yourself in your own yard or environment, make sure to get them identified properly before using. :-)


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