White Horsemint: A Thing of God’s Beauty

WHITE HORSEMINT Pycnanthemum incanum

WHITE HORSEMINT
Pycnanthemum incanum

By Orrin Morris

While teaching one summer at a seminary in the San Francisco area, I visited the Humboldt Redwood State Park.  I was dwarfed by the size of those magnificent trees.  The Scripture verses for today come from Psalms 91:1-2:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust.’

Unlike Redwoods, today’s wildflower, white horsemint, is easily overlooked.  You must travel to the edge of the woods to find it; and, on my property, it blooms in late summer in the shadows of our 60- to 80-foot oaks and hickories.  Even the smallest of plants, however, can communicate God’s magnificent, towering beauty.

As an artist, I’ve always enjoyed the beautiful colors, the fascinating textures and the delicate details of the smallest to the largest wildflower.  The white horsemint from afar looks like a weed whose top leaves have been bleached white by the sun, but a closer look reveals there is wonder in the details.

This wildflower bears its blooms on a plant that stands 3 to 5 feet tall and is easily identified by the whitish-green leaves surrounding the blossoms at the uppermost part of the branches. The stem is square, a common feature of the mint family.

When you get close and examine the blossoms you discover it is not just one bloom but many small flowers in a cluster.  The individual flower is less than 1/4 inch wide and about 3/4 inch tall. It is shaped like the bell of a trombone but stretched so the top of the bell juts upward and the bottom into a three-part lobe.  Its color is light pink or white with purple spots randomly located about the corolla. You need a magnifying glass to see these details, especially the pistil and stamen.

White horsemint is found in dry areas of thin or open woods. It blooms from June to September on my property, though my resource books say that it blooms primarily in September to October.  When the leaves are crushed they give off a mint odor and can be used to flavor iced tea.

In October, the leaves drop, but atop the stems will be dried flowers in which tiny black seeds can be harvested for planting in rock gardens and natural areas.

Finally, may you find joy by following the counsel I teach my students, “Look — truly look — at the shapes, colors, and textures.”  Thus, you can begin to grasp the true beauty of God’s highly diverse creation and “abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

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