This geocache is part of the Gold Country GeoTour – The Prequel: Be A Guest. This GeoTour focuses on a step back in time to learn about before the Gold Rush ensued: languages of the region’s culturally diverse families, handed down traditions such as recipes, flora and fauna, historic sites of significance, and points of interest. These stories will help preserve the oral languages and traditions of the region as well as assist in educating visitors and locals alike to the cultural diversity and environmental sensitivity of the region.
Canada Mint: Mentha canadensis, Mentha arvensis, also known as Field Mint and Wild Mint
Secwépemc: xw ex w ʔúʔxw (smell-smell, smell or odour of the menthol type) refers to any mint
Tsilhqot’in: tl’ech’idanlhtsen (wild mint)
Stl’atl’imx (Fraser River): ts'aw'əә́x-ləәqs (stifling-odour-to-the-nose)
Nlaka’pamux: tsʔéle, cʔéɬeʔ (mint)
Nsyilxcen: teʕ’waʔtíʕ’waʔ, tiʕw aʔ (mint), or xaxaʕáy’łp (also Oplopanax horridus, meaning menthol smell)
English translation: mint, menthol smell
Color: white, pinkish to purple
Typical Bloom (varies by elevation): July to September
Many plants from the mint family originated in Europe and were brought over with the migration of settlers, Canada Mint, however, is surprisingly the only native mint here in British Columbia. Wild Mint or Canada Mint as it is commonly known can grow from 1 to 4 feet tall on erect stalks. It has a rhizome root system that creeps just above or below the soils surface.
It is easily identified with its aromatic smell when rustled or bruised. The leaves of this perennial herb grow in pairs across from each other, with each pair alternating at right angles across from each other, one pair above and one below. The leaves are lance or oval shaped growing on short stalks with toothy margins and a hairy surface coming to a point at their tips. This aromatic herb has glands containing essential oils.
The flowers of the Canada Mint form clusters where the leaves meet the hairy stem axils. The small flowers range from an attractive full-pink hue or pale purple to white and grow almost symmetrically in 4 clusters along the stem. The flowers’ fruit is that of small nut-like seeds that do not open.
Canada Mint grows in low to moderate elevations preferring moist locations at the edges of streams, marshes, and lakes. It occurs from the west coast of British Columbia, east to Newfoundland, north to the Yukon and Alaska, and south all the way to New Mexico. It is also found all over East Asia, Siberia, Russia, and Malaysia.
Indigenous Cultural Notes: Wild Mint was one of several species of the mint family that was widely used in food preparation of the Nlaka’pamux, Tsilhqot’in, Stl’atl’imx, and Secwépemc people. This herb was used in soups and stews, as flavoring for meat and fish, as well for teas, drinks, or tonics. Teas made from this herb and others such as wild bergamot and wild rose hips were used as medicines as well as regular beverages. The Nlaka’pamux people used tea made from Canada Mint to treat those with stomach troubles, colds, fevers, coughs, and influenza.
Interesting Facts: Greek mythology tells a story about the naming of the mint species, Mentha. Hades, the god of the underworld, fell in love with a water nymph named Minthe. His wife, Persephone, was jealous, so she turned Minthe into a ground plant to be trampled on. Hades did not have the ability to return Minthe to her true form, so he gave her leaves a beautiful, fresh scent, that made her horrible fate more tolerable. Hades willed that the more the plant was trampled, the sweeter it would smell.
Mint is a deterrent. Many species of animals and insects including deer, rodents such as mice, mosquitoes, flies, wasps, ants, and moths prefer to stay clear of this smelly herb. Just crush and place fresh or dried mint leaves where you want to deter insects, replacing the leaves every few days. It is said that Canada Mint was introduced from North America to all other locations of the world.
Medicinal plant information is for historical information only. Gold Country Communities Society is not encouraging harvesting of native plants for food and/or medicine.
Researched and written by Lana Rae Brooks