Hairy Wood Mint is a herbaceous native perennial Native to Eastern North America. Scientifically known as Blephilia hirsuta, it has a long bloom duration and can form dense colonies in open woods and along the forest edge. A valuable source of nectar and pollen make Hairy Wood Mint a great native plant beneficial to bees and other pollinators.
In this article:
- What is Hairy Wood Mint
- What are the benefits of Hairy Wood Mint
- Identification / Characteristics
- How to grow and care for Hairy Wood Mint
- What Wildlife, Pests, and Diseases effect Hairy Wood Mint
- Where to buy Hairy Wood Mint
- Uses of Hairy Wood Mint
- Final thoughts
What is Hairy Wood Mint
The first time I knowingly encountered Hairy Wood Mint was in a mixed hardwood open forest that borders cornfields in Iowa……and I see dozens and dozens of an interesting looking flower. What looks like fuzzy-flowery rings on a stalk, is Hairy Wood Mint, also known as Blephilia hirsuta. I found it in a rocky hardwood forest, all along the tree line and extending into the woods some distance. It seemed to be along every deer trail and path. But only in areas that would be partially shaded from the sun.
A moist to medium-moist soil lover, Hairy Wood Mint is not drought tolerant and is most often found growing in open woods, or in full sun in locations where it can be shaded by the hot afternoon sun. The tiered whorls of white tubular flowers are interesting to look at and are incredibly popular with pollinators. But it has an aggressive nature and would require pulling lots of unwanted seedlings.
And although it’s flowers are attractive, they are not as showy as also aggressive Obedient Plant or Bee Balm. And for that reason is probably why you don’t see this cultivated in gardens, as it’s flowers aren’t beautiful enough to offset the annoyance of constant spreading.
Similarity to the Monarda genus
This native perennial is a member of the Blephilia genus, which contains but 3 species. The only other member that has a large range is commonly known as Downy Wood Mint, (B. ciliata). And unfortunately I’m not in charge of categorizing the species, but if I was I would probably consider moving this to the Monarda genus….why you ask?
There are some start similarities to the Monarda genus, in particular to Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), and Spotted Beebalm (Monarda punctata). If you are unfamilar with those species, let me explain my thought process. Monarda is also in the Mint family, lamiaceae. And Hairy Wood Mint has a very similar leaf shape and root & rhizome system as Beebalm (M. didyma). And the whorled flowers that are tiered are also somewhat similar to Spotted Beebalm (M. punctata), although it doesn’t have the lovely pink bracts. The seed heads and seeds are also similar…..I dunno. Perhaps both genus’s will be merged someday. They just seem very closely related.
Native Range of Hairy Wood Mint
The native range of Hairy Wood Mint primarily covers the upper Midwest and into Southern Ontario/Quebec & New England with isolated pockets throughout Appalachia & the Ozarks. It is endangered in several states such as Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. 
Hairy Wood Mint Facts
- It is hardy from zone 4-8. Check you USDA gardening zone here.
- It’s a member of the mint family, lamiaceae.
- As a member of the mint family, it will spread via underground roots known as rhizomes. This allows it to form colonies.
- Hairy Wood Mint is one of the plants negatively effected by invasive species such as Lonicera Maackii, in that seed germination is inhibited 
- Bees and other pollinators frequently visit Hairy Wood Mint, making it a valuable flower for the bees. 
- Hairy Wood Mint has been cited as a high-value species for Monarchs as a food source that is usually, and readily available during their migrations 
- Hairy Pagoda Plant is another common name for Hairy Wood Mint
Hairy Wood Mint Reference Table
|Hairy Wood Mint, Hairy Pagoda, Hairy Pagoda Plant
|Native Range, USDA Zone
|Eastern North America, USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8
|Bloom Duration, Color
|6-8 weeks, White
|1-3′ tall (30-90 cm)
|Spacing / Spread
|1′ (30 cm)
|Full sun to partial shade
|Loamy soil with organic matter
|Moist to medium, well drained
|Fauna Associations / Larval Hosts
|Numerous bees, butterflies.
What are the Benefits of Hairy Wood Mint
Like other members of the mint family, Hairy Wood Mint attracts huge numbers of pollinators. Charles Robertson in his exhaustive study noted over 70 species of pollinator visiting for nectar or pollen. All sorts of bees, butterflies, and even pollinating flies. 
Unique flowering pattern
Unlike most flowering plants, Hairy Wood Mint is unique in that it will have several whorls of flowers spaced on a single stem. These stacked, yet spaced whorls are likely what inspired another common name for this plant, Hairy Pagoda, as it would resemble a Pagoda.
Can help fight invasive plants
Although many would consider this a drawback, but the aggressive nature of Hairy Wood Mint can help fight invasive plants. Spreading by underground rhizomes help this plant colonize bare patches of ground, which reduces the available space for invasive species.
Identification and Characteristics of Hairy Wood Mint
Growing 1-3′ tall depending on conditions, the stalk of Hairy Wood Mint will be square or have four sharp angles and be covered with small hairs. It typically doesn’t have much, if any branching.
The leaves of Hairy Wood Mint are opposite along the stem, approximately 2.5″-3.5″ long by half as wide and lanceolate to ovate in shape with serrated margins. The upper surface will be a darker shade of green than the underside. Small hairs will be on the surface of the leaves and sometimes these hairs can give the appearance of the margins being ciliate.
Near the top of the stem there will be 3-6 whorls of flowers around the stalk that are spaced 1/2″-3″ apart (typically). Individual flowers are 1/4″-1/2″ long, tubular with two-lips. The flower is white in color and often has purple dots on the lip.
Saving seed from Hairy Wood Mint is rather straightforward. Simply wait until the flowers fade and begin to turn brown. Once they are dry and brown the seed heads can be collected by cutting below the seed heads and placing into a paper bag.
Take care to ensure that you don’t tip the seed heads upside down until they are securely in the bag, as seed may fall right out of the tubes. Set the bag indoors in a cool dry place for another week to ensure every thing is dry. Then, shake the bag to release most seed.
Seed heads can be crushed as well to further release seed. Sifting through a strainer can help separate the chaff. But in my experience if you just roll the dried seed heads in your fingers without crushing them, the seed will fall out with minimal chaff.
Dried seed should be able to be stored for at least a couple years as long as it remains dry and out of direct sunlight.
The root system of Hairy Wood Mint is fibrous and will have rhizomes. The rhizomes may spread far and wide forming colonies.
The farm where I first discovered this flower probably has thousands of plants on 80 acres in and around the woods. They don’t overwhelm the flora, but they seem to fill any gaps!
Grow and Care for Hairy Wood Mint
For soil, Hairy Wood Mint will prefer soils containing organic matter such as decaying leaves, as it is often found in open woods or along forest borders. It can grow in any loam-textured soil as long as enough organic matter is present.
For moisture, Hairy Wood Mint will prefer moist to medium-moist soil. The soil should be well drained.
For maintenance, one may need to mow or trim unwanted plants that spread via rhizomes.
Hairy Wood Mint should not require any form of supplemental fertilizer.
How to Grow Hairy Wood Mint from Seed
Hairy Wood Mint seeds are very tiny and need exposure to sunlight as well as 60 days cold stratification to break dormancy. So, winter sowing or utilizing the paper-towel/refrigerator stratification method will be necessary. 
Since the seeds of Hairy Wood Mint are so small, it is likely that you will over-sow them a little (or a lot). No problem – I have a very good guide on how to separate seedlings and transfer them to larger pots here.
Wildlife, Pests, and Diseases associated with Hairy Wood Mint
Over 76 species of pollinators have been documented visiting Hairy Wood Mint making it an incredibly important source of food for the local insects. Of these 76, that includes 25 species of long tongue bees, 17 species of short tongue, and a variety of butterflies. 
Hairy Wood Mint has been noted to be particularly valuable to Monarchs during the migration. It is encouraged to be planted for habitat. 
Aphids have been known to feed on Hairy Wood Mint.
Deer and Rabbits
Like other members of the mint family, Hairy Wood Mint is deer and rabbit resistant. The leaves really have a minty aroma which is probably why herbivores don’t bother eating the foliage.
Powdery Mildew will effect this plant though. So, make sure you keep it thinned to allow for some air-movement. That will be to help prevent or reduce the effect of any potential fungus.
Outside of Powdery Mildew, Hairy Wood Mint is generally disease free. However, Hairy Wood Mint is susceptible to the Cucumber Mosaic virus.  The primary symptoms are yellow streaking, spotting, or malformed plants. This virus is fatal to the plant with no cure. However, one should pull/dig any infected plants and burn them to help reduce the spread.
Where you can buy Hairy Wood Mint
Hairy Wood Mint is not typically sold in nurseries, as it isn’t a typical ‘garden friendly’ plant. But it can be purchased at specialty nurseries that deal in Native Plants. You can find native plant nurseries near you on our interactive map.
Where to buy seeds
We have ordered a variety of native flower seeds from Everwilde Farms, which you can order right from Amazon through our link on our RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS PAGE. (We may earn a small commission when you purchase through our links, at no cost to you. This helps support our website.)
Uses of Hairy Wood Mint
Hairy Wood Mint would be a good addition to any pollinator, butterfly, or rain garden. It can be a great addition to any meadow or microprarie that is moist to medium moist soil.
Just make sure you account for the spreading rhizome roots. The flower is really interesting to look at, if not overly showy. And it does provide some great benefit for pollinators by having a long bloom time.
I would not recommend this plant to be used in any formal flowerbed unless measures were taken to contain the spread. Given space and time, this plant could be quite aggressive like Obedient Plant or Bee Balm.
Due to it’s aggressive nature, Hairy Wood Mint could be a good match for other native spreaders that like similar soil conditions. Some that come to mind are the aforementioned Obedient Plant or Red Bee Balm. But this plant does grow amongst, and can grow with Canadian Goldenrod as well. Pairing with these would prolong the blooming period of the garden, providing color from Spring until Fall with only a few gaps. Those gaps could be filled by other aggressive plants though such as Blue Vervain or Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus strumous).
Although the leaves have a minty aroma, I could find no documented uses of this plant medicinally by Native Americans nor early settlers. And I could not find any culinary uses either. Although I’m sure you could make some nice potpourri from the leaves!
Hairy Wood Mint is not an overly showy plant, but proves it’s worth by how many pollinators it attracts. This plant can fill gaps in bare soil, which has a value in the fight against invasive plants. Easy to grow and relatively trouble free, it is a good choice for micro-prairies, or meadows, and even along the edge of a pond.
 – – Bauer, Jonathan T., et al. “Context dependency of the allelopathic effects of Lonicera maackii on seed germination.” Plant Ecology 213.12 (2012): 1907-1916.
 – Blephilia hirsuta (Pursh) Benth. USDA NRCS. Accessed 08JAN2023
 – Robertson, Charles. “Flowers and insects; lists of visitors of four hundred and fifty-three flowers.” (1928).
 – USDA, NRCS. “The plantss database (http://plants. usda. gov, May 2011). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro.” (2015): 27401-4901. Archived from original 09JUL2022
 – Poudel, B., A. G. Laney, and I. E. Tzanetakis. “First Report of Cucumber mosaic virus Infecting Blephilia hirsuta in North America.” Plant Disease 94.8 (2010): 1070-1070.
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