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Hyptis suaveolens (L.) Poit. 1806
pronounced: HYPE-tiss swah-vee-OH-lens
(Lamiaceae – the lavender family)
common name: Horehound
This shrub or woody herb from tropical America is now widespread through most of the tropics as a weed. It grows up to about 1.5 m tall, with hairy stems that are square in cross-section.
The plant produces flowers at the early age of 2 or 3 months. The flowers, which have 4 stamens, are in small cymes along branch ends with reduced leaves. The calyx is about 5 mm long in the flower, 1 cm in the fruit, and ribbed. The corolla is bluish. The flowers have a large number of pollinators, and this leads to enormous seed production.
The fruits are nutlets about 1.2–1.5 mm long, slightly notched at the ends. The seeds are protected in a spined burr, and this helps greatly in their dispersal.
The seeds in the flower heads are dispersed by water, and also by animals, humans and machinery, usually attached to fur, clothing, or mud. It is often a contaminant in pasture grass seed. The seed can remain dormant for many years until the right conditions for growth occur.
The plant favours dry, open locations, on roadsides, or in disturbed or overgrazed areas, by watercourses, and in pastures and open forests where the soil is well-drained. It can form dense thickets. It is considered dangerous to livestock.
In India, where the plant is well-established and is becoming an invasive species, it is used medicinally as a treatment for indigestion, stomach pain, nausea, flatulence, colds, and infections of the gall bladder. The essential oil the plant contains has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Besides all this, the plant has insecticidal properties, and is said to be a mosquito-repellant. Its rapid spread, however, not only inhibits other nearby species, but increases livestock pressure on the native species because the animals find this plant unpalatable due to the essential oil. Its disadvantages as an invasive weed far outweigh its medicinal benefits.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2009, 2012, Nelly Bay 2013, Horseshoe Bay 2014
Page last updated 15th December 2016