According to observations of naturalists and beekeepers.
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This plant is native to much of north-central and northern North America, notably the Great Plains and other prairies, and can be found in areas of Canada.
It is tolerant of deer and drought, and also attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, bumblebees, honeybees, carpenter bees, and night flying moths.
Anise hyssop is in the same family as hyssop (the mint family Lamiaceae), but they are not closely related.
This plant is present in at least 27 states/provinces in this country.
The upright, clump-forming plants generally grow 2-4 feet tall and about 1-3 feet wide from a small taproot with spreading rhizomes. They have alternate leaves on the square stems (characteristic of the mint plant family). The ovate to broad-lanceolate, dull green leaves up to four inches long have toothed margins and a whitish tint to the underside. The foliage remains nice-looking throughout the season and sometimes has a purplish cast on the new growth.
The root system produces a taproot.
The aromatic leaves have a licorice-like (anise) scent, and can be used in herbal teas, to flavor jellies or eaten fresh in small quantities, such as in a salad with other greens.
By midsummer, erect terminal cylindrical flower spikes begin to form and continue blooming through fall. The tiny flowers occur in dense, showy verticillasters, or false whorls tightly packed together, that are 3 to 6 inches long. Each tubular flower has two lips like all plants in the mint family, with the lower lip having two small lateral lobes and a larger central lobe, and four stamens ending in blue-purple anthers and a cleft style that extend from the flower throat. Flower color varies from white to pale blue and lavender through blue-purple, with the color more intense at the tip.
The plant blooms from June to September with bright lavender flowers that become more colorful near the tip. One plant may produce upwards of 90,000 individual flowers.
Anise hyssop is considered one of the premier plants for feeding pollinators. The 1969 edition of the Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening claims that one acre planted in anise hyssop can support 100 honeybee hives.