Mentha is a genus of 25-30 species, occurring in Europe, Asia, North America and with about 7 species in Australia. A number of the exotic species and hybrids are common culinary herbs and other herbs such as thyme, oregano and sage belong to the same family.
Mentha australis is a straggly, perennial herb about 0.5 – 0.75 metres high with soft, aromatic leaves from 25 – 60 mm long, lance shaped and tapering to a point. The leaf margins are toothed. Small white to lilac flowers are seen in the upper leaf axils during summer and autumn.
Native mints are not often seen in cultivation but they are useful plants for a sunny or shady, moist situation and have culinary uses similar to introduced mint. The leaves of M.australis have a fresh spearmint aroma and flavour. Under good conditions it can become invasive but it can be kept in check by regular clipping. It grows well in a container.
Propagation is easy from cuttings but seed can be slow to germinate. Division by the removal of small rooted segments can be transplanted into pots or other parts of the garden.
Photo: Anne Green