knowledge unlocks a world of possibilities The Robinson Library

The Robinson Library About the Library Navigation Help Sitemap Terms of Use Contact Information

  AgriculturePlant CultureVegetables
rosemary plantRosemary

aka Polar Plant, Compass-weed, Compass Plant

Rosemary is an evergreen shrubby herb native to the Mediterranean region. Its stem has a woody texture but, like other herbs, does not actually contain woody tissue. The leaves are dark green above and paler beneath, about one inch long, and very aromatic. The small, pale blue flowers are inconspicuous, but the plant produces very conspicuous brown fruits and seeds. Rosemary shrubs can grow up to five feet in height.

cross-section of a rosemary stemrosemary leavesrosemary flowersprig of rosemary

Rosemary is most commonly propagated by cuttings or root division, but if one is patient and persistent it can also be grown from seed. Six-inch-long cuttings are usually planted two-thirds of their length into the ground in the fall, and new plants are ready for transplanting the following year. Seeds grow best in warm, sunny areas, and are most often germinated in pots or starter beds. Rosemary does best in relatively dry soil with a pH level of 7-7.8, and will actually suffer more from too much attention than lack of attention.

Rosemary leaves are used to flavor many Mediterranean dishes. Rosemary tea has been used since ancient times to calm stomachs and nerves, relieve headaches, and as a cure for colic. The leaves are also smoked by some for relief from asthma and throat and lung infections. Oil of rosemary, distilled from the flowering tops, stems and/or leaves, is used in hair lotions as a remedy for premature baldness, scurf and dandruff. Added to water, oil of rosemary makes an effective antispasmodic. Carnosic acid, a chemical found in rosemary and concentrated by the distillation process, has been shown to lower the risk of stroke, Alzeheimer's, Lou Gehrig's, and other brain disorders. Oil of rosemary is also used as an ingredient in eau-de-cologne. Rosemary is high in iron, calcium and vitamin B6. Despite its many heathful uses, rosemary can be quite toxic if consumed in large quantities, with coma, spasm, vomiting and/or pulmonary edema very possible results.

Ancient Greeks believed rosemary was originally born of Ouranos's semen and that it was draped around Aphrodite when she rose from the sea, leading to it being named rosmarinus, "dew of the sea." Its association with the goddess of love naturally made rosemary a symbol of fidelity, and rosemary sprigs are still used to deck wedding chapels.

Scientific Classification

order Lamiales
family Lamiaceae (mints)
genus & species Rosmarinus officinalis


Questions or comments about this page?

  The Robinson Library > Agriculture > Plant Culture > Vegetables

This page was last updated on 12/23/2014.

About This Site | Navigation Help | Sitemap | Terms of Use | Contact