Species Profile

Hoary Mountain-mint

Scientific Name: Pycnanthemum incanum
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2011
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Hoary Mountain-mint

Hoary Mountain-mint Photo 1



The Hoary Mountain Mint is a perennial herb. The stems, which rise from rhizomes, measure about 1 m in height. There are many hairs on the stems of this plant, and there are more hairs on the upper parts of the stems than on the lower parts. The oblong leaves have a few teeth on each side and are covered with dense fine white hairs. The upper leaves are green on the upper surface and white underneath, while the lower leaves are white on both sides. The heads of the flowers measure 1.5 to 3.5 cm in diameter; the flowers are white with purple spots. The plant has a distinctive and fragrant minty scent.


Distribution and Population

The Hoary Mountain Mint occurs in the United States from New England and southern Illinois south to South Carolina. In Canada, the species occurs only in southern Ontario. Initially there were two known extant locations, less than 2 km apart: Willow Point in Burlington, and Woodland Cemetery in Hamilton. The Willow Point colony consisted of 41 stems in 1984 and 48 stems in 1997. The Woodland Cemetery site had 39 stems in 1991, but only one stem remained in 1997. At a third site, which consisted of 3 plants with numerous stems in 1991, no Hoary Mountain Mint plants were found in 1997. A substantial new population was located in 2000, bringing the total of known extant locations to three, all found on the Burlington Bluffs in Hamilton and Burlington. The total number of plants in Ontario is roughly 600.



In Canada, the Hoary Mountain Mint is found on open, dry, sandy-clay habitats in open-canopied deciduous woods on relatively warm slopes. The prairie grasses Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) dominate one of the Hamilton sites.



The Hoary Mountain Mint reproduces through seeds and through the division of the rhizome. It flowers between mid-July and mid-September.



In Canada, habitat destruction is the most serious threat for the species; this destruction occurs through human activities and through the invasion of other plants, especially shrubs. The Ontario populations are most at risk from invasion of non-native species, shoreline erosion and slumping.



Federal Protection

The Hoary Mountain-mint is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Hoary Mountain-mint is protected by the Ontario Endangered Species Act. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, harass, or collect this species, or to destroy its habitat.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for Hoary Mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum incanum (L.) Michx) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Hoary Mountain-mint Recovery Team

  • Melinda Thompson-Black - Chair/Contact - Private consultant
    Phone: 519-822-1609  Fax: 519-822-5389  Send Email


Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date The Hoary Mountain-mint recovery team aims to protect and enhance existing populations. Additionally, historical sites will be evaluated to determine if habitat restoration and reintroduction of Hoary Mountain-mint is advisable. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities An extensive survey and census conducted in 2000 and 2001 identified three remaining Hoary Mountain-mint populations. A large population was re-discovered in 2001 based on an historical account. These populations have been mapped and are monitored annually. The habitat in which each population occurs has been described and potential site-specific threats identified. The habitat requirements of Hoary Mountain-mint need to be assessed in greater detail in order for effective recovery planning to take place. In particular, researchers are trying to determine why germination of seeds and survival of seedlings is so low. Prescribed burns will be tested as a habitat restoration technique. Because so few populations of Hoary Mountain-mint remain, prescribed burns may be tested on sites where the plant is to be reintroduced. Hoary Mountain-mint seeds have been collected and preliminary propagation studies have been completed. Plant propagation will take place at the Royal Botanical Gardens as well as a demonstration site at the Cootes Paradise Fishway where they will be used for further research and seed collection for potential population augmentation and reintroduction. Summary of Recovery Activities All remaining populations of Hoary Mountain-mint occur on either municipal or private land. The cooperation of landowners is imperative to the recovery of this species. Habitat restoration has begun at one site, where landowners are attempting to remove invasive species and restore the area to oak savanna and open woodland. More removal of exotic plants is planned, and the effectiveness of alternative removal techniques will be monitored.


PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Hoary Mountain-mint Pycnanthemum incanum in Canada (2000)

    Hoary Mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum incanum) is a conspicuous, hairy, and fragrant member of the mint family that grows to one metre in height. The plant has broad, opposite, toothed leaves that occur all the way up the stem into the inflorescence. The roundish flower clusters occur primarily at the top of the stem and in the upper leaf axils. The small individual flowers are white with purple spots.

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment - Hoary Mountain-mint (2000)

    Designated Endangered in April 1986. Status re-examined and confirmed Endangered in April 1998 and in May 2000. May 2000 assessment based on new quantitative criteria applied to information from the existing 1998 status report.
  • COSEWIC status appraisal summary on the Hoary Mountain-mint Pycnanthemum incanum in Canada (2012)

    This perennial plant has a historically small distribution in Canada, where it is known to occur in just two populations along the Hamilton bluffs in Ontario. Its highly specific habitat, which is limited to a small shoreline area of the bluffs, makes this species especially vulnerable. The main threats to its persistence are the encroachment of invasive species, the loss of habitat to erosion and fire suppression, which contributes to succession to unsuitable habitat types.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Hoary Mountain-mint (2013)

    This perennial plant has a historically small distribution in Canada, where it is known to occur in just two populations along the Hamilton bluffs in Ontario.  Its highly specific habitat, which is limited to a small shoreline area of the bluffs, makes this species especially vulnerable.  The main threats to its persistence are the encroachment of invasive species, the loss of habitat to erosion and fire suppression, which contributes to succession to unsuitable habitat types.  

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for Hoary Mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum incanum (L.) Michx) in Canada (2007)

    Hoary Mountain-mint is one of several species of mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum) found in Ontario. It is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows to a height of 1 m. In Ontario, the plants are reproducing largely vegetatively from rhizomes (underground horizontal stems), even though the plants are producing viable seeds. The stems have many fine white hairs, especially on the upper parts. In this particular species, the number of stems per plant is an indicator of the age and hardiness of the plant (Obee 1994). The leaves are opposite. The main leaves are 5-10 cm long and 1.5-3.5 cm wide. They are densely hairy on the lower leaf surface and on the upper surface of the leaves in the upper part of the plant. They have few teeth and a fragrant, minty scent. The genus is appropriately named Pycnanthemum, which means "densely flowered". The small, white, purple-spotted flowers are found in dense clusters at the end of stems and in the leaf axils. The flowers clusters are 1.5 to 3.5 cm in diameter and bloom in mid to late summer.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2011-2012 (2012)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (September 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) from November 21 to 25, 2011 and from April 29 to May 4, 2012. On February 3, 2012, an Emergency Assessment Subcommittee of COSEWIC also assessed the status of the Tri-colored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus), the Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus), and the Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis). During the current reporting period COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 67 wildlife species. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2011-2012 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 1 Extirpated: 4 Endangered: 29 Threatened: 10 Special Concern: 15 Data Deficient: 2 Not at Risk: 6 Total: 67 Of the 67 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 49 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment (see Table 1a).

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – December 2012 (2013)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations and by October 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. Consultation paths.

Residence Description

  • Residence Rationale - Hoary Mountain-mint (2007)

    Individual Hoary Mountain-mint plants do not appear to use a dwelling place similar to a nest or den, and therefore do not qualify for having a residence. There would be no additional legal protection not already afforded by protection of the individual and its critical habitat.