Mentha spicata L.

Common Name: Spearmint

Synonyms and Other Names:

Mentha longifolia auct. non (L.) Huds., Mentha cordifolia Lej. & Courtois auct., Mentha viridis L., Mentha sylvestris L., Mentha longifolia var. mollissima (Borkh.) Rouy, Mentha longifolia var. undulate (Willd.) Fiori, Mentha spicata var. longifolia L., Mentha spicata var. spicata L., bush mint; brown mint; garden mint; lamb mint; mackerel mint



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Identification: Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is a rhizomatous, upright perennial which is most commonly grown as a culinary herb and/or ground cover. It typically grows 30-100 cm, but may reach heights of 2 foot. The plant has variably hairless to hairy stems and foliage, and a wide-spreading fleshy underground rhizome. The leaves are 5–9 cm long and 1.5–3 cm broad, with a serrated margin. Leaves have a strong spearmint fragrance and taste. Spearmint produces flowers in slender spikes, each flower pink or white, 2.5–3 mm long and broad. M. spicata is differentiated from other Mentha species by its glabrous or sparsely hairy, nearly sessile leaves.


Size: 30–100 cm


Native Range: Eurasia and southwest Asia.


Map Key
This map only depicts Great Lakes introductions.

 
Great Lakes Nonindigenous Occurrences: This species is widespread in the US, including the Great Lakes region, with reported sightings in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.


Table 1. Great Lakes region nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state/province, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Mentha spicata are found here.

State/ProvinceFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
IN193320083Little Calumet-Galien; St. Joseph; Upper Maumee
MI1843200821Black-Macatawa; Boardman-Charlevoix; Cheboygan; Great Lakes Region; Huron; Lake Erie; Manistee; Maple; Northeastern Lake Michigan; Northwestern Lake Huron; Ottawa-Stony; Pere Marquette-White; Pine; Southcentral Lake Superior; Southeastern Lake Michigan; Southwestern Lake Huron; St. Clair; St. Clair-Detroit; St. Joseph; Upper Grand; Western Lake Erie
NY1843200812Cattaraugus; Eastern Lake Erie; Great Lakes Region; Indian; Lower Genesee; Northeastern Lake Ontario; Oneida; Oswego; Oswego; Seneca; Southwestern Lake Ontario; St. Lawrence
OH200820089Black-Rocky; Blanchard; Cuyahoga; Huron-Vermilion; Lake Erie; Lower Maumee; Sandusky; Southern Lake Erie; Western Lake Erie
PA200820081Lake Erie
WI200820084Manitowoc-Sheboygan; Milwaukee; Northwestern Lake Michigan; Upper Fox

Table last updated 4/20/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.


Ecology: Mentha spicata grows best in rich, moist soils in full sun to part shade but can adapt to a wide range of soils, except dry ones. In aquatic sites, the plant does well in sand, clay and wet soil along edges of creeks, drains and swamps. This species is often found in locations where natural vegetation has been disturbed. 

This species is a perennial plant that typically spreads by underground rhizomes. It flowers from June to October, producing 4 small, egg-shaped nutlets (Montana PlantLife, 2014).


Means of Introduction: Deliberate release through planting.


Status: Widespread and established where reported.


Great Lakes Impacts:
Summary of species impacts derived from literature review. Click on an icon to find out more...

Beneficial

Current research on the environmental impact of Mentha spicata in the Great Lakes is inadequate to support proper assessment.

While mints are sometimes classified as invasive or noxious due to their rapid spread, very little research has been done on M. spicata in terms of its negative environmental impacts. Mentha spicata may hybridize with  native wildmint (M. arvensis) to form gingermint, Mentha x gracilis.

There is little or no evidence to support that Mentha spicata has significant socio-economic impacts in the Great Lakes.

This species does not appear to have significant effects on the health of native species, nor does it alter the physical components of the ecosystem in any significant ways. Mentha species, including M. spicata, are known to carry or be susceptible to more than 20 plant viruses, including viruses such as strawberry latent ringspot viris (SLRSV), alfalfa mosaic, cucumber mosaic, tobacco mosaic, and tomato spotted wilt, which are pests on other crops (Tzanetakis et al 2010), but the potential for M. spicata populations to transmit these diseases to these other susceptible crops is unknown.

Mentha spicata has a high beneficial effect in the Great Lakes.
Mentha spicata is a valuable commercial species grown as an essential oil crop in the Great Lakes region. In the United States, the cultivated area for mint is about 50,000 ha, with spearmint (M. spicata and M. gracilis) representing 20% of the production area and the crop value. Oregon and Washington are the largest producers followed by Idaho, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan (Tzanetakis et al 2010b).  The USDA (2008) estimates the direct value of the spearmint oil crop at $24 million. The essential oil is used as a flavoring in gum, candy, and toothpaste and is sometimes added to shampoos and soaps (New Mexico State University). The leaves of spearmint are edible raw or cooked and most often used as a flavoring or brewed as tea. 
 
Mentha spicata is a popular garden plant, often naturalized as a ground cover in moist informal areas such as pond/water garden margins or low open woodland areas.’ (Missouri Botanical Garden 2013).  Its flowers attract many different kinds of bees and butterflies (Ohio State University 2013).

Mentha spicata has historically been used as a strewing herb.  It has been shown to repel rats and mice (Plantlife.org 2013), ticks (El-Seedi 2012) and to act as a larvicide to several mosquito species (Govindarajan 2012).  The essential oils are proving to be effective anti-fungal agents (Nosrati 2011, Lixandru 2010)

Mint has been used for thousands of years for anything from medicinal wraps to talismans that scare away demons  (Ohio State University 2013). In traditional medicines, spearmint has been used to treat fever, headache, digestive disorders, and colic (PlantLife.org). Today, menthol (in cough drops and syrups) is among the most common medicinal uses of spearmint extracts. Recent research is exploring the potential of Mentha spicata extracts in the treatment of hirsutism (Akdogan 2007), gout (Hudaib 2011), cancer (Begnini 2012), and as an antiemetic (Tanyarani-Najaran 2013).  

Spearmint (Mentha spicata) extracts contained a compound that induced co-metabolism of a PCB (Gilbert and Crowley, 1997) and the plant may be useful in remediation of PCB contaminated sites.


Management: Regulations (pertaining to the Great Lakes)
In 2011, the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission ranked M. spicata to be a lower priority for regulation and management (Falck et al 2012).

Note: Check federal, state/provincial, and local regulations for the most up-to-date information.

Control

Biological
Several diseases of mints are well characterized as crop pests – e.g., mint rusts – and activity of these pests appears to be quite host specific (Johnson 2013) but the potential for use of mint diseases for biocontrol has not been the subject of direct research.

Physical
Hand-pulling may control small populations of Mentha spp.  (MISIN and MNFI 2013).
Soil barriers may be used to restrain rhizomatous spread if plants are grown in borders or other areas where spread is unwanted. Removal of flower spikes will stimulate new vegetative growth (Missouri Botanical Garden 2013).

Chemical
General herbicides, such as glyphosate, are effective at controlling Mentha spp. (MISIN and MNFI 2013).

Note: Check state/provincial and local regulations for the most up-to-date information regarding permits for control methods. Follow all label instructions.


Remarks: Hybrids involving spearmint include Mentha piperita (peppermint; hybrid with M. aquatica), Mentha gracilis (ginger mint, syn. M. cardiaca; hybrid with M. arvensis), and Mentha villosa (large apple mint, hybrid with M. suaveolens).  

M. spicata is differentiated from other Mentha species by its glabrous or sparsely hairy, nearly sessile leaves.


References (click for full reference list)


Other Resources:
Author: Cao, L., L. Berent, and R. Sturtevant


Contributing Agencies:
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Revision Date: 7/22/2019


Citation for this information:
Cao, L., L. Berent, and R. Sturtevant, 2024, Mentha spicata L.: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/GreatLakes/FactSheet.aspx?Species_ID=2671, Revision Date: 7/22/2019, Access Date: 4/20/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.