Mentha x piperita ‘Chocolate Mint’ is a cultivar of Mentha x piperita, which in turn is a hybrid of Mentha aquatica and Mentha spicata.
Members of the Mentha genus hybridize easily. That is, different species within the genus can, via sexual reproduction, produce a third species. Watermint and spearmint have hybridized to become peppermint. Hybrids are denoted by the letter ‘x’ between the genus and species, for example Mentha x piperita.
Within a given species, each individual has certain traits. Perhaps one peppermint plant smells more candy-like while another smells more “green”. Variations in coloring, exact chemical composition, etc., are common between individuals of a given species. Gardeners will sometimes choose their favorite individuals to propagate based on favored characteristics. This specially chosen set of characteristics within a species, when cultivated by people, is called a cultivar (cultivated variety). Chocolate mint has been cultivated based on its particular appearance and aroma, thus it is a cultivar of peppermint. Cultivars are denoted by the non-italicized cultivar name in single quotes following the botanical name of the species, i.e. Mentha x piperita ‘Chocolate mint’.
Does chocolate mint really smell like a chocolate mint candy or cookie? The jury is still out. Some people think it does, others find it no different than any other peppermint. Have you experienced Mentha x piperita ‘Chocolate Mint’? What do you think?