Melissa a genus of five species of perennial herbs native to Europe and Asia. The name Melissa is derived from a Greek word meaning bee, owing to the abundance of nectar in the flowers which attracts bees.
The stems are square, like all other plants in the mint family. The leaves are borne in opposite pairs on the stems, and are usually ovate or heart-shaped and emit a lemony scent when bruised. Axillary spikes of white or yellowish flowers appear in the summer.
They are very frost hardy plants which prefer full sun or light shade if summers are hot. They are quick growing, and look especially good along paths, herb gardens, or among ferns when grown in pots. Slightly moist, well-drained soil is best. M. officinalis has become naturalised in many parts of the world.
- Melissa axillaris (Benth.) Bakh.f.
- Melissa bicornis Klokov
- Melissa flava Benth. ex Wall.
- Melissa officinalis L.
- Melissa yunnanensis C.Y.Wu & Y.C.Huang
The most commonly grown species of this genus is Melissa officinalis. It is native to southern Europe. It can grow up to 1.5 m high and is grown mainly for its lemon-scented leaves. Small white flowers appear in late summer, which attract bees. It spreads rapidly, and can become an invasive species if left unchecked. The leaves can be used for a calming herbal tea, fruit salads, jellies, iced tea, and a substitute for lemon peel in cooking.
Propagate from seed sown in spring. Variegated forms are propagated by root division or from young spring cuttings.