Downy Wood Mint

Blephilia ciliata (L.) Benth.

Blephilia ciliata
Stephen M. Young

Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
Lamiaceae (Mint Family)
State Protection
Listed as Endangered by New York State: in imminent danger of extirpation in New York. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

The genus name Blephilia comes from the long hairs on the bracts of the inflorescence that look like eyelashes. This attractive mint is sometimes planted in gardens for its fragrance, beauty and ability to attract butterflies and bees.

State Ranking Justification

There are two existing populations and nine historical populations scattered throughout upstate New York.

Short-term Trends

The short term trend seems to be stable, although the disturbed habitats where the plant occurs can fluctuate in areas that are suitable for growth.

Long-term Trends

This plant was never common in the state but it was known historically from nine occurrences in seven counties from Westchester to Ontario counties in the late 1800s and early 1900s when there was much more open habitat in the state. Populations probably remained low throughout the 1900s and now only two existing populations remain.

Conservation and Management


Plants occur in an old field and a disturbed powerline right-of-way where weedy plant management may affect the viability of these populations. The open habitat of these sites could alternately be threatened by a succession of the open habitat if it is not protected or by too much mowing or weed management that could destroy the plants.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

These sites need to be managed to prevent succession of woody species while at the same time preventing destruction by mowing at the incorrect time or through the use of herbicides.

Research Needs

These plants seem to grow in disturbed habitat that is common throughout the limestone areas of the state but it is unknown why this plant is only found in a couple of these sites. A thorough study of habitat preference and plant dispersal is needed.



The few extant sites for this species in New York consist of disturbed areas (fields and powerlines) with shallow soil over limestone (New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). Oak woodlands and borders; thickets, banks, and clearings; meadows, borders of fens, thin soil over limestone (Voss 1996). Dry woods, thickets and openings (Fernald 1970). Woods (Gleason & Cronquist 1991).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Calcareous cliff community* (guide)
    A community that occurs on vertical exposures of resistant, calcareous bedrock (such as limestone or dolomite) or consolidated material; these cliffs often include ledges and small areas of talus.
  • Calcareous red cedar barrens* (guide)
    A small-patch calcareous rocky summit community occurring on dry, south-facing to southwest-facing slopes and low summits. These sites are characterized by stunted, sparse woodlands with small grassland openings.
  • Calcareous talus slope woodland* (guide)
    An open or closed canopy community that occurs on talus slopes composed of calcareous bedrock such as limestone or dolomite. The soils are usually moist and loamy; there may be numerous rock outcrops.
  • Limestone woodland* (guide)
    A woodland that occurs on shallow soils over limestone bedrock in non-alvar settings, and usually includes numerous rock outcrops. There are usually several codominant trees, although one species may become dominant in any one stand.
  • Northern white cedar rocky summit* (guide)
    A community that occurs on cool, dry, rocky ridgetops and summits where the bedrock is calcareous (such as limestone or dolomite), and the soils are more or less calcareous. The vegetation may be sparse or patchy, with numerous rock outcrops. The species have predominantly boreal distributions.
  • Rich graminoid fen* (guide)
    A wetland of mostly grasses usually fed by water from highly calcareous springs or seepage. These waters have high concentrations of minerals and high pH values, generally from 6.0 to 7.8. Plant remains do not decompose rapidly and these grasses usually grow on older, undecomposed plant parts.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Anemone virginiana (tall anemone, thimbleweed)
  • Cornus sericea (red-osier dogwood)
  • Leucanthemum vulgare (ox-eye daisy)
  • Lotus corniculatus (common bird's-foot-trefoil)
  • Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife)
  • Monarda
  • Oligoneuron rigidum
  • Prunella vulgaris
  • Rudbeckia hirta (common black-eyed Susan)
  • Solidago caesia
  • Solidago juncea (early goldenrod)
  • Solidago nemoralis


New York State Distribution

Downy wood-mint is known primarily from the Hudson Valley from Westchester County to Albany County, with a single historical location from Broome County in Western New York.

Global Distribution

Blephilia ciliata is known from Ontario, New York, and Western New England, through the midwestern and southern states, ranging as far south as Georgia, and reaching the western limit of its distribution in Texas, Kansas, and Iowa.

Identification Comments

General Description

Blephilia ciliata is an opposite-leaved, herbaceous wildflower, the stem covered in short (less than .5mm long) hairs. The flowers are 11 to 14 mm long, are two-lipped, and have pale blue petals with purple spots. These occur in one or several hemispheric (ball-shaped) clusters along the stem, subtended by numerous, finely hairy bracts. These bracts are ovate and about as long as the calyx. The leaves are 3 to 6 cm long, entire or toothed, sessile or nearly so, and smell strongly of mint when crushed.

Similar Species

Blephilia hirsuta has a stem with hairs 1-2 mm long, and the leaves of its flowering stem have a petiole of 1 cm or more. The bracts are shorter than the calyx, and lower calyx lobes are 1 mm or less, not reaching the sinuses of the upper lip.

Downy wood-mint may also be initially mistaken for the very common species Prunella vulgaris, which has longer petioles, 3 stamens (in contrast to Blephilia's 2 stamens), and a less cleft calyx (Voss 1997).

Best Time to See

Flowers mid-June through October.

  • Flowering

The time of year you would expect to find Downy Wood Mint flowering in New York.

Downy Wood Mint Images


Downy Wood Mint
Blephilia ciliata (L.) Benth.

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
        • Order Lamiales
          • Family Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

Additional Resources


Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.

Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.

Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research University of South Florida]. New York Flora Association, Albany, New York


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: January 18, 2008

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Blephilia ciliata. Available from: Accessed June 23, 2024.