Native Herbs -  

​- Yaupon Holly/Ilex vomitoria/Aquifoliaceae (Holly)

•    Historical Herbal Use - Native Americans in E. TX made ceremonial emetic called the "black drink"
•    Current Herbal Use - Leaves contain caffeine and are sometimes made into a tea.
•    Description - Yaupon is a picturesque, upright, single- or multi-trunked shrub or small tree, growing 12-45 ft high but usually no higher than 25 ft. Female plants produce prodigious amounts of bright red berries. The leaves are dark green and small. Slow growing.
•    Preferences - Grows in sun or shade; tolerant of poor drainage and drought. Can take severe hedging & pruning.
​•    Why Grow It? - Leaves and berries make natural holiday decorations. 

- Agrarita or Mexican Barberry/Mahonia trifolata/Berberidaceae (Barberry))
•    Historical Herbal Use - Wood makes a tan orange dye; roots have been used to treat toothache and stomach trouble.
•    Current Herbal Use - Berries used to make jam; but you must use a stick to beat them off the bush because of the thorns.
•    Description - Evergreen, three skinny leaflets, with 5 sharp points; fragrant yellow flowers in clusters; red berries in June.
•    Preferences - Full sun and good drainage.
•    Why Grow It? - Provides protective cover for birds and small mammals; flowers are important source of bee forage. Flowers and berries are attractive in the landscape. 

​- Wafer Ash, Hop Tree/Ptaelea trifolata/Rutaceae (Citrus)
​•    Historical Herbal Use - Settlers used fruit instead of hops to make beer; used bark & roots as a substitute for quinine for malaria; also used for fevers and fatigue.
•    Current Herbal Use - Used today in some homeopathic remedies.
•    Description - Aromatic shrub or small tree with a rounded crown. The trunk is slender and crooked, bearing interwoven, ascending branches. Bark, crushed foliage, and twigs have a slightly lemon-like, unpleasant musky odor. Trifoliate, deciduous leaves. Seeds are wafer shaped.
•    Preferences - Takes a wide range of soil types and exposures.
•    Why Grow It? - Bright fall color for shady locations; attractive small tree.

 - Texas Lantana, Calico Bush/Lantana urticoides/Verbenaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Often used in Mexico to treat fever, stomach distress and snakebite.
•    Current Herbal Use - None found.
•    Description - Low, wide shrub, 2-6 ft. tall, many branches, rough leaves, bright multicolored flowers, pungent aroma.
•    Preferences - Requires light, well-drained soil, but tolerates other types. Full sun or light shade. Blooms continually from spring to fall, drought and heat tolerant.
•    Why Grow It? - Very colorful and easy to care for. Caution: Plant is poisonous to people and pets. Leaves may irritate skin in some people. 

- Fringed Puccoon, Narrow Gromwell/Lithospermum incisum/Boraginaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Navajos chewed root for coughs & colds; roots made a red or purple dye; puccoon is an Indian word meaning "dye."
•    Current Herbal Use - Sometimes used in wool dyeing today.
•    Description - Upright, hairy perennial to 12", with fringed yellow flowers. Genus name means "stone seed," referring to the nutlets that come late in the season.
•    Preferences - Prefers sandy soils; tolerates drought.
​•    Why Grow It? - Showy flowers from April -June; interesting in a dye garden. 

- Butterfly Weed, Pleurisy Root/Asclepias tuberosa/Asclepiadaecae (Milkweed)
•    Historical Herbal Use - Root tea for heart trouble; seeds and roots used as laxative. Fibers from stem used to make rope; settlers treated bronchial and lung problems with the root.
​•    Current Herbal Use - Tincture used as a homeopathic remedy.
    Description - Clump-forming hairy perennial to 3 ft. Small red-orange or orange flowers in clusters from April-September.
•    Preferences - Found throughout Texas in a wide variety of soils. Sun, light shade.
•    Why Grow It? - Attractive flowers bring lots of butterflies & bees. 

- Prairie Parsley, Wild Dill/Polytaenia nuttallii/Apiacaeae (Parsley or Carrot)
•    Historical Herbal Use - One native American group used the tea to cure diarrhea.
•    Current Herbal Use - Can use as substitute for dill.
•    Description - Upright, smooth, stout biennial to 3 ft. Related to common herbs parsley, chervil, caraway & celery.•    Preferences - Often found on blackland prairies; full sun.
•    Why Grow It? - Interesting addition to the herb garden. 

- Wild Blue Indigo/Baptisia australis/Fabaceae (Legume)
•    Historical Herbal Use - Has been used as an antiseptic, a purgative and to combat coughs and fevers.
•    Current Herbal Use - The seed pods make a blue dye for wool; research is ongoing as a treatment for immune system.
•    Description - Upright, robust, smooth perennial 2-4 ft. Blooms in April-May.
•    Preferences - Clay soils of prairies and plains; needs full sun.
•    Why Grow It? - Attractive blue flowers; interesting for a dye garden. Caution: Plant generally said to be toxic. 

- Lemon-Mint, Purple Horsemint/Monadra citriodora/Lamiaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - The Blackfoot Indians used bee balm poultices for skin infections and minor wounds. Bee balm tea was used to treat mouth and throat infections.
•    Current Herbal Use - Lemon-flavored tea from dried leaves; oil from leaves used in perfumes; dried crushed leaves can be used as an insect repellant.
•    Description - Upright, aromatic annual or biennials to 32". Blooms April-October, if watered, with whitish or lavender flowers.
•    Preferences - Sandy or rocky soils; tolerates drought. Grows in sun or part shade. Can become aggressive; susceptible to powdery mildew.
•    Why Grow It? - Interesting flowers and fragrant foliage; easily grows from seed. Leaves are edible in tea or used in salads and cooking. 

- Wild Bergamot/Monarda fistulosa/Lamiaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Cherokee used hot leaf tea for heart trouble, fevers, and to induce sleep. Settlers used it to induce sweat in measles & fevers.
•    Current Herbal Use - Leaves & flowers used in sachets.
•    Description - Upright, soft-hairy aromatic perennial to 5 ft. Blooms May-July, with dark pink to lavender flowers.
•    Preferences - Sandy or rocky soils; moderate drought tolerance; heat tolerant.

•    Why Grow It? Leaves are edible in tea or used in salads and cooking. 


- Lindheimer Beebalm/Monarda lindheimeri/Lamiaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Monardas were widely used by native Americans for skin poultices, tea for sore throat & mouth infections, and as a general stimulant.
•    Current Herbal Use - Foliage and flowers used in bouquets & potpourri.
•    Description - Upright, aromatic perennial herb 1-2 ft. Blooms April-August, with green-yellow flowers in umbel-like clusters in June & July.
•    Preferences - Full sun; prefers gravelly or limestone soils. This Monarda grows only in TX & western LA.

•    Why Grow It?  - Creamy white flowers good for cutting; aromatic foliage used in teas, potpourri and sachets. 


- Lyre-Leaf Sage, Cancer Weed/Salvia lyrata/Lamiaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Cherokee used leaf tea for colds, nervousness and as a laxative. Was also mixed with honey to treat asthma. A folk remedy for cancer. Tea was once a gargle for sore throat.
•    Current Herbal Use - Used to make tea.
•    Description - Very upright, hairy perennial, 1-2 ft., with long, pale blue flowers, on a long spike. In winter the leaves are often purple-tinged.
•    Preferences - Prefers sandy soils; moderately drought tolerant; will grow in sun or shade.
•    Why Grow It? - Attractive flowers; makes a good evergreen ground cover. Flavor is not as strong as other sages; the tea has a light, minty taste. 

 - Purple Coneflower/Echinacea purpuea/Asteraceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Medicinal
•    Current Herbal Use - Medicinial
•    Description - An attractive perennial with purple drooping rays surrounding a spiny, brownish central disk. Rough, scattered leaves on long stems.
•    Preferences - Prefers full sun. Tolerant of drought, heat, humidity and poor soil.
•    Why Grow It? - Handsome flowers in late spring; birds eat the seed heads. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. 

- Texas Star Hibiscus/Hibiscus coccineus/Malvaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - 
•    Current Herbal Use - Tea from flowers
•    Description - Grows 4-8' with tall canes. Leaves look a little like marijuana plant; saucer-sized red flowers.•    Preferences - Can grow in wet or dry conditions; grows quickly.
•    Why Grow It? - Beautiful blooms all summer; great as a tall landscape plant

 - Lemon verbena/Aloysia triphylla/Verbenaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Culinary, medicinal, cosmetic
•    Current Herbal Use - Culinary, medicinal, cosmetic
•    Description - A shrub 36-48" high, with elongated light green leaves. A good mid-level plant in your garden.
•    Preferences - Full sun and good drainage. Not reliably winter-hardy
•    Why Grow It? - One of the best fragrances of the lemon-scented herbs. Makes delicious tea and baked goods. 

- Lemon balm/Melissa offincinalis/Lamiaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Culinary, cosmetic, medicinal
•    Current Herbal Use - Culinary, cosmetic, industrial
•    Description - Hardy perennial, about 18" high, spreads easily, can become invasive.
•    Preferences - Likes high shade. Prune to keep from blooming and spreading seeds.
•    Why Grow It? - Good lemon flavor and scent for potpourri and cooking. 

- Almond verbena/Aloysia virgata/Verbenaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - 
•    Current Herbal Use - Bee plant, fragrance
•    Description - Large deciduous woody shrub or perennial for full sun to light shade. Spikes of white blooms all summer.
•    Preferences - Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping. Prefers full sun, but can take light shade.
•    Why Grow It? - This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds. Caution: some people may be allergic to the pollen. 

- Yarrow/Achillea millefolium/Compositae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Medicinal
•    Current Herbal Use - Medicinal, industrial
•    Description - Leaves finely cut and feathery; tall bloom spikes in late spring/early summer. Several color varieties available.
•    Preferences - Easy care; tolerates dry soil. Prefers full sun.
•    Why Grow It? - Flowers dry well. 

- Lamb's Ear/Stachys byzantina/Lamiaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Medicinal, as a wound dressing.
•    Current Herbal Use - Can be used as a dye plant.
•    Description - Thick, white wooly foliage; sends up flower stalks with small pink or lavender flowers. Low-growing; good for borders.
•    Preferences - Full sun and well-drained soil; tolerates poor-soil conditions. Wilts in high humidity and heavy rain.
•    Why Grow It? - Pleasing texture; a fun plant for children. Handsome silver foliage. 

- Catmint/Nepita cataria/Lamiaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Medicina
•    Current Herbal Use - Some cats like it; supposedly it repels rats.
•    Description - Low growing, small leaves, blooms all summer.
•    Preferences - Full sun and good drainage; low moisture.
•    Why Grow It? - Attractive low growing border plant; fragrant.

Traditional Herbs -  

- Basil/Ocimum basilicum/Lamiaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Culinary, medicinal
•    Current Herbal Use - Culinary
•    Description - Basil comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.  Some good ones for cooking include: Ocimum basilicum 'Genovese,' 'Dark Opal,' and 'Cinnamon.' 
•    Preferences - Basil is a true sun worshipper.  It wants to bolt in the heat, so keep the flower stalks trimmed off to encourage leaf growth.
•    Why Grow It? - The blossoms attract bees of all kinds; it's one of the easiest and most rewarding culinary herbs to grow. 

- Rosemary/Rosmarinus officinalis/Lamiaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Culinary, medicinal, cosmetic
•    Current Herbal Use - Culinary, medicinal, cosmetic
•    Description - Many cultivars of rosemary exist, including upright and prostrate types. 'Arp' and 'Hill Hardy' have Texas associations.
•    Preferences - Requires good drainage, good air circulation, and at least 4-6 hours of sunlight.  Mulching will help during drought and heat
.•    Why Grow It? - Versatile culinary herb; used in potpourri and all sorts of DIY cosmetics. 

- Thyme/Thymus vulgaris/Lamiaceae
 •    Historical Herbal Use - Food preservative, moth repellant, medicinal, culinary
•    Current Herbal Use - Culinary, medicinal, cosmetic, industrial
•    Description - Thymes fall into 3 groups: upright subshrubs (most culinary varieties), creeping , and flat creepers
•    Preferences - Thyme needs to be pruned lightly and regularly to keep it from becoming too woody. Needs good drainage and full sun.
•    Why Grow It? - Another versatile culinary herb; dries well for using in crafts like wreathmaking and pressing. 

- Lavender/Lavendula spp./Lamiaceae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Culinary, medicinal, cosmetic
•    Current Herbal Use - Culinary, medicinal, cosmetic, industrial
•    Description - 22 species in Lavandula genus.  Many hybrids and cultivars.
•    Preferences - Requires full sun and excellent drainage.  Easily overwatered, but have to give enough water in summer.  
•    Why Grow It? - One of the most pleasing fragrant herbs.  Fun to try various culinary uses. Lots of craft and cosmetic uses. 

- Wormwood/Artemisia absinthium/Compositae
•    Historical Herbal Use - Medicinal
•    Current Herbal Use - Industrial, medicinal
•    Description - Genus Artemisia has many interesting species, from sweet Annie to southernwood to French tarragon.
•    Preferences - Full sun and good drainage. Easy to grow.
•    Why Grow It? - Wormwood provides a pop of year-round silver color in the landscape.  Dries easily for crafts and decorations.

Texas Tough Natives and Herbs by Gayle Southerland