About 3 years ago, on 3 August 2006, Daniel selected today’s plant for Botany Photo of the Day. As I passed the cultivar’s modest flowers in our E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden earlier this week, it seemed time to feature the small oregano species once again.
Lamiaceae (mint family) consists of between 223 and 263 genera and between 6900 and 7200 species, most of which are distributed throughout the Mediterranean basin and southwestern Asia. Generally speaking, the annual or perennial family members are aromatic shrubs, trees, or vines equipped with square stems dressed in whorled leaves. The family produces bilaterally symmetrical, bisexual flowers that exhibit 5 united sepals and 5 united petals.
The genus Origanum includes 44 herbaceous perennial and sub-shrubby species and a broad diversity of lower taxa (6 subspecies, 3 varieties, 18 naturally occurring hybrids). Species—which are notoriously difficult to label correctly—are native to the dry, warm, and rocky-soiled alpine habitats of the Mediterranean and Eurasia, but can survive in a wide range of soils and are variously hardy to zones 5 through 9. In order to encourage healthy growth and development, gardeners often create environments that simulate the species' native habitat, siting plants in soils mixed with sand, shells, or gravel in garden areas that are exposed to full sun or partial shade. Species exhibit ovate-leaved stems that are either trailing or erect, and they variously put forth flowers of pink, purple, or white. Some Origanum species contain the sharply sapid chemical carvacrol, for which they are included in many forms of cuisine that originate around the Mediterranean Sea (Italy, Greece). Outside of the kitchen, species extracts have long served as active ingredients in folk treatments for colds, coughs, and gastro-intestinal problems, and several are reputed to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties. Linnaeus first described the
cultivar genus (19/07/2009), which is featured in today’s photo of the cultivar 'Barbara Tingey', in the 18th century.
This evergreen specimen—which here seems to glow like a vast network of purple, candle-lit lanterns—grows easily in containers stocked with well-drained soil, and it propagates from cuttings with similar facility. The small, layered flowers press out from in between the hanging bracts and remain in bloom for the majority of the summer.