Justica Flowers Lamiales (Order)

The order Lamiales includes some of the most economically important and widely used culinary plants on Earth, particularly the Mint family(Lamiaceae), providing most of our culinary herbs, and the Olives (Oleaceae), providing both edible fruit and a range of the best cooking oils available. Some others are also of interest for culinary and medicinal uses, and many are widely planted as decoratives. All are characterized by a trumpet shaped flower often with a prominent lower lip.   Photo of Justicia adhatoda by ShineB distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

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Mint Family   -   [Family Lamiaceae]
Leafy Mint Plant

This family of mostly herbs (but some pretty big trees as well) provides a large number of our most essential culinary herbs, as well as a great number of medicinal plants.

The family includes Mint, Basil, Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, Rosemary, Sage and many others. The family is so vast we have divided it up into a number of major pages. These start with the Mint Family and branch out from there.

Plantain Family   -   [Family Plantaginaceae]
Flowering Plantain Plant

The Plantain family is rather obscure, but includes a fair number of weedy plants used locally as salad greens and potherbs. It also provides a commercially important substance widely used as a dietary supplement, and also in food processing and landscape gardening. Beyond that, many family members are important medicinal plants. An herb popular in Vietnam and surrounding regions is also in the family, as well as one very decorative genus that is definitely Do Not Eat! The Plantain Family has its own page.

Sesame   -   [Til, Gingly (India, Hindi); Ellu (India, Dravidian); Kunjid (Persian); Benne (US South, Caribbean - from African); Sesamum indicum]
Sesame Seeds

This plant, native to Africa and India, is of great culinary and economic importance, both for it's seeds and the oil pressed from them. Sesame has a higher oil content than any other seed, and has been cultivated for oil for more than 5000 years. While huge amounts are grown in Burma, China, India and Africa, sesame is little grown in the United States due to the high labor costs involved in harvesting it. This important plant has its own Sesame & Sesame Products page.

Olive Family   -   [family Oleaceae]
The impact of this family on early human nutrition and both ancient and modern cuisine would be hard to over-estimate.

Olives   -   [Olea europaea,]
Mix of Olve Fruits

Native to the Mediterranean basin, from Portugal all the way around to Morocco, and as far east as Iran, this highly drought resistant tree has been and remains critical to both cuisine and economy throughout its range. It not only provides edible fruit (not edible right off the tree, but after a little processing) and many of the finest cooking and salad oils available anywhere. but supports an extensive industry. This important tree has a major page devoted to it on this site - Olives.

Osmanthus   -   [Sweet Osmanthus; Guihua (China); kinmokusei (Japan); Osmanthus fragrans] Flowering Branch of Osmanthus

Native to East Asia, from the Himalayas east across southern China to Taiwan and southern Japan. Dried flowers are mixed with green or black tea to make an aromatic tea similar to how jasmine flowers are used. It is also made into a jam-like sauce that is used to perk up bland porridges, soups and cakes, and used in at least one liquor. Flower colors range from white through yellow to orange.   Photo by Laitr Keiows distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Jasmine   -   [Arabian Jasmine; Mo Li Hua (China); Full (Arabic); Ful (Turkish); Malila (Thai); Hoa Nhài (Viet); Jasminum sambac] Flowering Branch of Jasmine

Native to South and Southeast Asia, this is the variety of jasmine used in China to make jasmine tea. Dried flowers are mixed with green or black tea. The flowers, which have a very strong perfume, open at night and close in the morning.

The leaves of one other jasmine, J. subtriplinerve, are used to make a beverage in Vietnam.   Photo distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Ash   -   [Manna Ash, Flowering Ash; Fraxinus ornus] Leves and Seeds of Ash Tree

Ash trees are generally noted for useful wood, not for any culinary use, but one species, native to southern Europe has been, and may still be, tapped for its sweet sap. That one is also noted for its large display of flowers, inconspicuous in most ash trees.

The photo is not of that species, but one of my trees (species not identified), which, unfortunately, has neither showy flowers nor sweet sap, and is noteworthy mainly for the huge number of baby ash trees produced by its single winged seeds.

Verbenas   -   [family Verbenaceae]
This family was once much larger, but the AGP genome program has stripped off more than half the genera once assigned to this family, assigning many of them to the Mint family. The Verbena family now contains only a few plants of culinary interest.

Lemon Verbena   -   [Lemon Beebush; Aloysia citrodora]
Growing Lemon Verbena Plant

Native to southern Bolivia and northwestern Argentina, this aromatic plant is used both for teas, and to provide a lemony flavor for fish and chicken dishes, as well as marinades, salads, yogurt and beverages. It is also used as a medicinal plant and has a significant array of antioxidants.

It is not much sold commercially, but It grows easily in the garden. It is not, however, a good decorative because it quickly becomes very rangy with sparsely leaved stems. The photo specimen is still very young and hasn't ranged out yet.

Lantana   -   [Spanish Flag, Shrub Verbena; Lantana camara ]
Flowers, Berries of Lantana

This shrub, native to the tropical Americas, has become a very popular decorative here in Southern California. In some other areas, particularly Hawaii, Florida and Australia, it has become a troublesome weed. The foliage is toxic to most animals and eaten safely only by Australian swamp wallabys, making the plant difficult to control.

The berries are edible when ripe, when they are a dark metallic purple, but are just mildly sweet, aren't strongly flavored and have big seeds, so they're not something to seek out. I sometimes eat some when I walk down to the Bank of America branch because they are planted as a hedge by the neighboring condos. Leaf extracts are used medicinally, primarily for treating stomach ulcers, and have some anti-bacterial value.

Mexican Oregano   -   [Lippia graveolens]
Dried Leaves of Mexican Oregano

This shrub, native to the US Southwest, through Mexico and as far south as Nicaragua, is an important culinary herb in the cuisines of Mexico and Central America. It is also used in the US Southwest, but is still a bit difficult to find here in Los Angeles.

Some related herbs, particularly Lippia alba (White Lippia) and Lippia palmeri are similarly used.   Details and Cooking.

Candle Tree   -   [Candlestick Tree; Palo de Velas, Arbol de vela (Spanish); Parmentiera cereifera of family Bignoniaceae]
Candle Fruit on Tree

This tree, growing to 25 feet high, is native only to Panama, and is considered endangered there due to logging. It is popular in botanical gardens and is cultivated to some extent in Florida. The flowers and fruit sprout directly from the trunks and large limbs, rather than from smaller branches. The fruit, said to taste like bell pepper and sugar cane, is fleshy but fibrous, so is often used to make pickles and preserves rather than eaten fresh. The fruit can be up to 24 inches long, and is greenish yellow when ripe.   Photo by Cyndy Sims Parr distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

Cuajilote   -   [Guajilote; Cucumber Tree; Parmentiera aculeata syn. Parmentiera edulis of family Bignoniaceae]
Cuajilote Fruit on Tree

This tree, growing to 32 feet high, is native to southern Mexico and south to Costa Rica. It is now an invasive in Queensland Australia. The flowers and fruit sprout directly from the trunks and large limbs, rather than from smaller branches. The fruit, said to taste like sugar cane, is fleshy but fibrous, so is often used to make jams rather than eaten fresh. It is also cooked stuffed with meat. The fruit can be up to 12 inches long, but more commonly around 7 inches, and is greenish yellow when ripe.   Photo by Strongilocentrotus distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Devil's Claw   -   [Unicorn plant, Martynia, Proboscis flower, Ram's horn; Ibicella lutea of family Martyniaceae]
Devil's Claw Seed Pod

This plant, native to Brazil, now grows wild in Southern California and Florida. It is sometimes planted as an ornamental for its showy flowers and weird seed pods. These are designed to hook large animals so as to be carried far and wide. The pod in the photo is about 2 inches long, not counting the horns or the stem. When the pods are young and green, they can be cooked similarly to okra and eaten, or made into pickles.     Photo by Thiago R. B. de Mello distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Mangrove Trumpet Flower   -   [Tui, Tue, Tuy (Tagalog); Diya daga (Sri Lanka); Dolichandrone spathacea of family Bignoniaceae]
Bowl of Magrove Trumpet Flowers

This small tree is native to southern India and Sri Lanka, and east through Southeast Asia to the Pacific Islands of New Caledonia. In Thailand, these flowers are stir fried with garlic and served as a side dish, and they are also used in sour fish curries.   Photo by Xufanc distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Morro   -   [Mexican Calabash; Jícaro, Morrito; Crescentia alata of family Bignoniaceae]
Morro Seeds

This small tree, to 26 feet, is native to southern Mexico and Central America as far south as Costa Rica. Flowers sprout directly from trunks and large branches, and produce very hard cannon ball like fruit to 4 inches diameter. The hard shell protected the seeds so only very large animals, probably Gomphotheres, could eat the fruit. When they died out, the tree became endangered, as no other Central American animal could break the shells.

Humans showed up just in time, finding the shells useful and the seeds edible and high in protein. Young fruit is sometimes eaten or made into a drink, and a stable, neutral flavored oil can be squeezed from the seeds. When horses were re-introduced to the Americas, they learned to stomp on the shells to break them and eat the pulp inside. This has spread the seeds more widely, insuring survival of the tree. The seeds are heart shaped, about 0.29 inch across, 0.35 inch long and 0.07 inch thick (7.4 x 9.0 x 1.8 mm) with a vaguely licorice-like taste. They are used to make horchata, an aguas frescas drink. Note: "Morro" is also used as the name for seeds of the unrelated Bottle Gourd, also used to make horchata. The photo specimens were purchased from a large Hispanic market in Los Angeles (Burbank) for 2016 US $5.58 / pound.

Jacaranda   -   [Jacaranda mimosifolia of family Bignoniaceae (Bigonias)] Large Jacaranda Tree

You can't actually eat Jacarandas, but they have become such a successful large decorative worldwide, and quite notably here in Southern California, they deserve a place on this page as a fine example of a large Lamiale. This one lives just down the street from my home. Jacarandas originated in Brazil.

lm_lamiales 2007   -   www.clovegarden.com
©Andrew Grygus - agryg@clovegaden.com - Photos on this page not otherwise credited are © cg1 - Linking to and non-commercial use of this page permitted