Germander (Teucrium canadense) seeds
Easily grown in moist, fertile, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates part shade. Some tolerance for poorly-drained soils. Avoid dry soils. Can be aggressive in optimum growing conditions where it often spreads easily by rhizomes and self-seeding to form large colonies. Easily grown from seed. Propagate by seeds, cuttings and division.
Teucrium canadense, commonly known as American germander or Canada germander, is a woody-based, clump-forming, rhizomatous, herbaceous perennial of the mint family. Each plant typically consists of a single (usually unbranched), stout, hollow, hairy, square stem to 18-36” tall clad with opposite leaves and topped in summer by a terminal spike of purplish-pink flowers. It is native to moist woods, thickets and marshes in eastern and central North America. In Missouri, it is typically found in prairies, wet meadows, low woodlands, thickets, fields, and along streams/railroads in every county in the State (Steyermark). Additional common names include wood sage and wild basil.
Lanceolate to narrow-ovate, coarsely-toothed, sharply-pointed, short-stalked, aromatic-when-crushed leaves (2-5” long) are smooth to soft-hairy above and grayish-hairy beneath. Leaves have distinctive reticulated veins. Two-lipped, purplish-pink flowers (2/3” long) bloom in long narrow upright terminal clusters (spike-like racemes to 2-8” long) from mid June to September. Flowers lack fragrance. Flowers are distinctive in that the upper lip is almost absent but 4 stamens project outward through the cleft. The lower lip has three lobes (typical of the mint family) with a large central lobe and two smaller rounded side lobes. Flowers give way to rounded yellowish-brown seeds (nutlets).
Germander makes a beautiful layer of ground cover and it also works equally well in a rockery or knot garden. It is a wonderful plant to add layers or ornamental value to a herb garden or container. Although the leaves possess minor medical value, they should not be used without consulting an expert. Deer and other grazing animals avoid germander because of its bitter taste. This makes it perfect for use in gardens with deer problems.
Native Americans used the leaves to make medicinal teas. Leaves were also steeped in water for use in healing sores and ulcers of the skin.
Genus name comes from the Greek name, possibly named for Teucer, first king of Troy.
Specific epithet is in reference to this plant being native in part to Canada.
No serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to mildew, leaf spot, rust and mites.
These plants are usually grown for their foliage effect rather than for their flowers. Herb gardens. Native plant gardens. Stream/pond margins.
The reputation of Germander as a specific for gout is of very old date, the Emperor Charles V having been cured by a decoction of this herb taken for sixty days in succession.
It has been employed in various forms and combinations, of which the once celebrated Portland Powder is one of the chief instances.
It was also used as a tonic in intermittent fevers, and is recommended for uterine obstructions.
The expressed juice of the leaves, with the addition of white wine, is held to be good in obstruction of the viscera.
Possessing qualities nearly allied to those of Horehound, a decoction of the green herb, taken with honey, has been found useful in asthmatic affections and coughs, being recommended for this purpose by Dioscorides. The decoction has also been given to relieve dropsy in its early stages.
- Culpepper tells us that it is:
- 'most effectual against the poison of all serpents, being drunk in wine and the bruised herb outwardly applied.... Used with honey it cleanseth ulcers and made into an oil and the eyes anointed therewith, taketh away dimness and moisture. It is also good for pains in the side and cramp.... The decoction taken for four days driveth away and cureth tertian and quartan agues. It is also good against diseases of the brain, as continual headache, falling sickness, melancholy, drowsiness and dulness of spirits, convulsions and palsies.'
He further states that the powdered seeds are good against jaundice. The tops, when in flower, steeped twenty-four hours in white wine will destroy worms.
Note: Its blossoms are used as a folk medicine to treat dyspepsia, diabetes, and gout. However, chronic use of germander may cause hepatotoxicity. In general, the toxic effects of germander are first seen within 9 weeks of use and are manifested by jaundice and elevated liver enzymes (ALT and AST).