2019 - Anise Hyssop
Description: A hardy, short lived perennial with soft, dull green ovate leaves that alternate on a square stem, characteristic of the mint family of which it is part. The leaves are about 4” long with toothed margins that have an intense aroma and flavor of Aniseed (licorice) and mint. It blooms mid-summer and has erect flower spikes with tubular flowers that can range from white to pale blue to lavender to blue purple. There are varieties that can have other colors. The flower spikes can last all summer, and are great at attracting pollinators such as bees, butterflies, beetles and other insects, as well as Hummingbirds. The pollinated flowers produce seeds called nutlets, which are eaten by Goldfinches. Deadheading the plants will encourage more flowers.
The plants themselves grow 24 - 48" tall and 1 - 3' wide from a small tap root with spreading rhizomes. It is hardy in zones 3 - 8, but cannot tolerate extended temperatures of -6° or below. It is easily grown from seed, or propagated by root division or cuttings. It self-sows readily, but the tiny plants are easy to pull up to control growth. The plants need rich, moist but well drained soil, and can be grown in full sun or partial shade. They are drought resistant once the plants have been established. They have no significant pest problems but may develop root rot in wet soil, or powdery mildew in humid climates. They are deer resistant, but rabbits will eat them.
Habitat: It is native to North and Central America, especially the Great Plains, prairies, fields, and dry forested areas in the upper mid-west into Canada; specifically northern Colorado to Wisconsin, and from Ontario west to British Columbia in Canada.
It is not related to hyssop (Hyssopus spp.) which is a European/Asian healing herb, or anise (Pimpinella anisum) a member of the carrot family.
Usage: Gardens- Anise hyssop is a beautiful plant and works well in the middle or back of perennial borders or flower gardens, as it can grow to be fairly tall. It combines well with other natives. It is also easily grown in containers.
Parts used- Leaves, flowers, fresh or dried. Harvest just past full bloom for optimal oil retention.
Culinary- Dried leaves can be made into a minty/licorice tasting tea or can be used to flavor jellies. Fresh leaves can be floated in soft drinks or fruit cups to add “piquancy”. They can also be snipped into salads. The flowers are edible, and can be used as a garnish. Dried or fresh leaves can be added to meat dishes, especially pork, to add flavor. Florets can be used to make Anise hyssop cookies, and other baked goods.
Medicinal- The leaves have antibacterial properties, and have been used for cough, colds, or digestion problems by infusions.
Crafts- The blossoms retain fragrance and color when dried, and can be used in Potpourri, wreaths, and many other crafts.