Nettle-leaf Giant-hyssop

Agastache urticifolia

Species distinguishing characteristics: 

  • Foliage and flowers have pungent, skunk-like smell
  • Dense, pinkish-purple flower heads at the top of stems 
  • 4 pollen stalks (stamens) protruding out of flower
  • Toothed leaves with sparse hairs underneath
  • Clustered stems

Family Characteristics: 

  • Square stems
  • Undivided, stalked leaves in opposite pairs
  • Tubular flowers with 2 lips (2 upper lobes and 3 larger, lower lobes)
  • Flowers in circles (whorls) round the stem
  • Spicy to pungent aromatic foliage
  • Many are culinary spices such as rosemary, lavender, thyme, and basil

Growth habitat: 

Erect perennial, 0.4–1.5 m tall, with many stems. 

Leaves and stems: 

Smooth or finely haired foliage with a pungent, musky smell.  Clustered stems are square in the cross section.  Leaves, 3–10 cm long, are heart-shaped to triangular and arranged in opposite pairs.  Leaves have coarse teeth and sparse, short hairs on the underside (occasionally hairless); resembling stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) leaves. 

Flowers: 

Dense, rose-purple to pinkish-white, musky-smelling flower heads, 2.5–10 cm, consisting of many flowers in whorls that form a spire at the top of stems.  Funnel-shaped flowers, 10–15 mm long, have an upper lip with 2 shorter lobes and a lower lip with 3 longer lobes and are lighter pink surrounded by darker sepals.  4 pollen stalks (stamens) protrude beyond the opening of the flower.

Roots: 

Branching, woody root crowns with fibrous roots.

Seeds: 

4 small, hard-coated, brown nutlets, 2 mm, with small hairs at the tip.

Habitat preferences: 

Open meadows and thickets at low to subalpine elevations.

Interesting facts: 

The lower lip of flowers in the Mint Family (Lamiaceae) forms a landing platform for pollinating insects.  Domestic and wild animals eat the plant and use it for forage more than any other species in the Mint Family.  Birds often eat the seeds and humans can eat the seeds either raw or cooked.  The leaves, in small quantities, can be brewed into a pungent, anise flavored tea and used as a cooking spice.  The Cree occasionally included the flowers in their medicine bundles.  Medicinally, the leaves and flowers are used as a sweat-inducer and a vasodilator.

Biological Classification: