Thyme

Filed Under: Culinary Herbs, Fragrant Herbs, Herbs for Bees, Birds & Butterflies, Medicinal Herbs, Ornamental Herbs

There's always time for thyme!

Thyme is one of the most popular culinary herbs worldwide, yet few people realize that Thymus, the botanic genus to which thyme belongs, contains 350 species, all of which are to a greater or lesser extent aromatic (though not all are useful in the kitchen).

Generally speaking, the thymes are wiry-stemmed subshrubs with small, narrowly to broadly oval leaves. Depending upon the species and cultivar, thyme leaves can be shiny, fuzzy, bright green, deep green, grey green, blue green, yellowish, silver, or variegated; furthermore, the leaves of the hardiest species can darken or redden in

Thyme in bloom

cold weather. Thyme flowers, small, two-lipped, and aromatic, can come in pink, lavender, white, or crimson. And when brushed or crushed, thyme can exude perfumes reminiscent of nutmeg, orange, caraway, mint, lemon, lavender, pine, rose geranium, or varnish.

The thymes are classified by botanists as members of the Deadnettle Family (Lamiaceae or Labiatae) along with the mints, lavenders, rosemary, sage, oregano, and so many other useful herbs. Native to Southern Europe, North Africa, the Near East and the Mediterranean, many thymes are mainstays in the kitchen: an old cook’s adage runs, “When in doubt, use thyme!” Thymes have also been employed in fragrance crafting for centuries; and thyme leaves provide us with powerful essential oils, the germicidal and antiseptic qualities of which are still valued today.

Thyme is known by many terms worldwide:

  • AFRIKAANS: tiemie
  • CATALÀN: farigola
  • CHINESE: bai li xiang shu 百里香属
  • DANISH: timian
  • DUTCH: tijm
  • ESPERANTO: timiano
  • FINNISH: timjami
  • FRENCH: le thym
  • GERMAN: Thymian
  • GREEK: thumári (Θυμάρι)
  • HUNGARIAN: kakukkfû
  • SPANISH: el tomillo
  • ITALIAN: thymus
  • NORWEGIAN: timian
  • POLISH: macierzanka tymianek
  • PORTUGUESE: tomilho
  • ROMANIAN: thymus
  • SWEDISH: timjan
  • TURKISH: kekik

Not everything called “thyme” belongs to the genus Thymus. The so-called “broadleaf thyme,” also called “Cuban oregano,” is a fragrant culinary subtropical with large, fleshy, pointed, scalloped grey-green leaves called by botanists Plectranthus amboinicus.


THYMES IN HISTORY & FOLKLORE

The English word “thyme” comes from the Latin thymus, which itself may be

Ach, a wee bit o' thyme'd taste guid about now.

derived from the Greek thymon, “courage.” The ancient Greeks used wild thyme to scent their throats and knees. According to Lesley Bremness, “Roman soldiers … bathed in thyme water to give themselves vigor. The Romans were particularly fond of flavoring cheeses with thyme, and thyme liqueur was a Roman specialty.” The Roman poet Virgil, in his Bucolics (30 B.C./B.C.E.) recommended thyme and garlic “for mowers wearied in the scorching sun.”

The Romans also had high regard for thyme as fodder for farm animals. In 77 A.D./C.E., the Roman author Pliny wrote in his Natural History (from the Holland translation, 1601):

“In Languedoc and the province of Narbonne, the very stony places are all overgrown and covered with thyme, upon which there are fed thousands of sheep and other cattle … this kind of herbage and pasturage yields a great revenue to the inhabitants and peasants of that country.”

"The very stony places are all overgrown and covered with thyme."

According to Sidonius Apollinarius (ca. 431-486), an aristocratic bishop in Gaul (now modern France), thyme was one of the plants grown in the “secluded gardens” of an aristocratic friend near Nîmes. Later, in the Middle Ages, European ladies embroidered sprigs of thyme, each with an attendant bee, on scarves as tokens of courage for their favorite knights.

A soup recipe of 1663 recorded the use of thyme and beer to overcome shyness, while Scottish highlanders drank tea made of wild thyme for strength and courage, and to prevent nightmares.” Bremness also states that thyme’s “powerful antiseptic and preservative properties” were “well-known to the Egyptians, who used it for embalming,” adding that thyme “will also preserve anatomical and herbarium specimens, and protect paper from mold.”

Rembert Dodoens, in his New Herbal (1578), claimed that “thyme boiled in water and honey and drunk is good against a hard and painful cough and shortness of breath.” (Thymol, one of the active ingredients in thyme leaves, is still used in cough preparations.) Dodoens also recommended eating thyme in the morning on an empty stomach and in the evening before supper (or with meat) for bleary, watering, sore eyes. Bremness suggests using thyme tea for a digestive tonic, for hangovers, and as an acne wash.

Thyme honey in the making!

Thyme has long been recognized as a bee-attracting herb. Thyme honey, a thick, dark honey, is highly praised (Greek thyme honey has been valued since ancient times). Theophrastus, in his Enquiry Into Plants (300 B.C./B.C.E.), wrote [parentheses mine]:

“There is a black [i.e., dark green-leaved] and [a] white [i.e., light green-leaved] thyme, and it flowers very freely : it is in bloom about the summer solstice, and by it beekeepers say that it is made known whether they have a good yield of honey or not, for if the thyme flowers abundantly, they have a good yield.”

The Roman writer Pliny insisted in his Natural History (77 A.D./C.E.) that burning wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum) would yield a perfume that would chase away snakes; Genders claims the same remedy will chase fleas and flying insects from the house. Genders also reports that hanging fresh sprigs of thyme leaves to dry in the closet, or little muslin bags of the dried leaves (along with the leaves of cotton lavender, Santolina incana), will repel moths from clothing. He claims, too, that a strong tea made of the leaves of thyme and rosemary “will darken the hair and keep it soft and silky as well as free the scalp of dandruff.”

According to Helen S. Stephens, “In Wales, thyme was one of the sweet-scented plants used for planting on graves. An old tradition says that thyme made the fragrant bed of the Virgin Mary on the night that Christ was born.”

It was once believed that thyme (and sweet marjoram) could protect milk from being turned sour by thunder.

Lady Rosalind Northcote, in her Book of Herbs (1912), reports that in Prussia (present Austria and Germany) it was believed that “[wild] Thyme [i.e., T. serpyllum] and Marjoram [Origanum majorana] laid by milk in a dairy will prevent [the milk] being ‘turned’ by thunder.” Lady Northcote also reports that in an old French book entitled Le petit Albert, “largely gleaned from out the wondrous lore set forth by Albertus Magnus,” a medieval alchemist, thyme is one of the ingredients of a charm designed to load a fisher’s nets with fish:

“[The charm] is made by mixing Nettles [Urtica dioica], Cinquefoil [Potentilla spp.], and the juice of Houseleek [i.e., hens and chicks, Sempervivum spp.], with corn [i.e., wheat] boiled in water of Thyme and Marjoram, and if this composition is put into a net, the net will soon be filled with fish.”

It was the custom, from Shakespeare’s day through the Victorian period and beyond, to attribute to plants symbolic meanings which could be employed to compose a

What secret message does her bouquet hold?

secret lovers’ message in the form of a bouquet. Many lists were printed down through the centuries, and they often disagreed with one another. In a lyric printed in Clement Robinson’s A Handefull of Pleasant Delites (1584), the writer (possibly a man named Hunnis) said of thyme, “Thyme is to trie me,” that is, the presence of thyme in a bouquet meant that the lover was being tested by his or her beloved. In Flora’s Dictionary by “a Lady”, a book published by Fielding Lucas of Baltimore, Maryland in 1833, the author — Mrs. Elizabeth Washington (née Gamble) Wirt — attributes to thyme the rather nebulous meaning of “activity.” And according to Conway in The Magic of Herbs (1976), thyme represents “homely virtues” (i.e., “I need a good homemaker like you”).

In a sad love-ballad from Devonshire, England, quoted by Lady Northcote in 1912, thyme figures prominently:

“In my garden grew plenty of thyme,/ It would flourish by night and by day,/ O’er the wall came a lad, he took all that I had,/ And stole my thyme away./ O! And I was a damsel so fair,/ But fairer I wished to appear,/ So I washed me in milk, and I dressed me in silk,/ And put the sweet thyme in my hair.”

Thymol-rich thyme.

Thyme leaves contain thymol, a powerful antiseptic chemical used in World War I to disinfect battlefield wounds. Thymol is also present in other plants, including wild marjoram (Origanum vulgare ‘Hirtum’, syn. O. hirtum); Ocimum gratissimum (syn. O. viride), a variety of basil from India and Africa; and American horse mint (Monarda punctata), a beebalm species native to the Eastern United States.

GROWING THYMES

Thyme can be grown virtually anywhere in the United States with a mean annual temperature of 45-70ºF. Most forms of thyme are hardy when provided with a little winter protection. They take to rock gardens, poorish soils — practically any situation that is not soggy or deeply shaded — and they prefer a gravel or stone mulch to an organic one; however, the heavier the soil thymes are planted in, the less aromatic they become. Soil pH can range from just over 4 to almost 8. Though thymes prefer full sun, they will tolerate light shade, particularly in Florida and in the hotter summer areas of the Southwest. Generally, thymes need at least 5 hours of sun a day to keep from legginess. Thymes can also be grown indoors in a sunny window or under fluorescent lights.

At Sissinghurt, Vita Sackville West planted a thyme lawn. She also used live creeping thymes as a cushion for a stone seat in her herb garden. Says Smith in The Illustrated Earth Garden Herbal: “The classic garden seat is a raised earth mound covered with thyme, for which the grey woolly thyme … which looks and smells like grey velvet and has pink flowers, would be ideal.” (See Thymus pseudolanuginosus below.) Helen S. Stephens (1956) reports reading of a “Seat of Thyme designed by Butler Sturtevant, San Francisco architect”. It was a “low brick seat (about 17 inches) … adjacent to a brick-paved patio. In many of its medieval prototypes, the ‘upholstery’ was of turf, but the woolly thyme … used here is more satisfactory, needing less care and moisture. It makes a thick, spongy cushion which, grown in a sandy soil with little water, is dry and comfortable to sit on; and both its soft gray appearance and cool fragrance are most refreshing.”

When planting thyme in beds, space plants 10-18″ apart. Make sure the roots are buried well down in the soil, lest they creep to the surface and be scorched by the sun before they have established themselves. (Do not, however, bury the plants’ crowns — the juncture of stems and roots.) If growing thyme for your bees, position the plants about 10 feet from the hives. When planting thymes between bricks or stones, situations to which the creeping thymes are particularly well suited, the following steps are recommended:

  1. In the springtime, or in the cool of the morning or late afternoon, dig out a hole between the pavers twice as deep as it needs to be to accommodate the root system of the plant.
  2. Mix the soil removed from the hole with fine sifted compost and coarse sand at the proportion of 2 parts soil to 1 part compost to 1 part sand. Backfill the excavated hole with this mixture to the depth of the plant’s rootball.
  3. Mix thoroughly into the bottom of the partly filled hole a tablespoon of organic 5-5-5 or 5-10-5 fertilizer.
  4. Gently loosen and spread the compacted roots of the thyme plant with a pencil tip, and set the plant into the fertilized hole. Backfill with the remainder of the augmented soil. Take care not to set the plant more deeply than it stood in its original pot.
  5. Water gently, allowing the loose soil to settle in around the plant. (Do not tamp the soil down; let the water settle it.)
  6. If there is room to do so, mulch around the plant with pea gravel, crusher fines, or finely chopped grass clippings. Keep the thyme just moist (never soggy). Side-dress with well-rotted compost each spring.

Remember: good drainage in an only moderately fertile soil is crucial for thyme. Case in point: when this writer first planted thyme in his Santa Fe garden, he augmented the heavy clay soil thoroughly with lots of manure and compost and organic fertilizer. The result was a heavy soil high in fertility. He planted his thymes, and watched them grow slowly throughout the summer. The next year all the plants he had set into the super-enriched beds had died, but the thyme that had spread into the gravel path beside the beds was growing lustily!

Trim thymes grown for their leaves right after flowering by about a third. It is strongly recommended not to trim thymes in winter. Says Grieve, “In warm climates, one need have no worries about winter care, but in localities that freeze, they should be protected with salt hay or straw and watched carefully and pressed down into the earth if they begin to heave.” Thymes and lavenders need similar growing conditions, light, and soils, and so make excellent partners in the borders or herb garden.

Garden thymes are heavy feeders, and other plants seldom thrive in a bed in which thymes were formerly planted unless well-rotted manure is dug into the bed at least 6″ below the depth of the thyme roots. In winter, it is recommended to protect the plants from frost by making little banks of soil around them (do not let the soil cover the crowns of the plants).

A novel suggestion for improving the growth and size of thyme leaves is offered by Richard Surflet in The Countrie Farme (1600): “That it may grow the fairer and fuller leafe, it will be good to water the ground oft with water wherein hath been steeped for the space of one whole day drie Thyme somewhat bruised.”

COOKING WITH THYMES

Thyme, says Léonie de Sounin in Magic In Herbs, “is an all-around herb” for cooking, complementing the fragrances and aromas of other herbs as well as being able to stand on its own. “It will never spoil the fun,” she adds. “[It] has the quality of a splendid mixer.”

The best time to harvest thyme is on a dry day before noon just before plants bloom. Cut plants to within 2-4 inches of the ground. Second cuttings in late summer or early fall are possible, but they can badly weaken the plants. Thyme is one of those wonderful herbs that keeps its fragrance very well when it is dried. To dry thyme, place stems on screens (or muslin or newspaper) in a warm, dry, well-ventilated room. In a day or so, when they have dried, strip the leaves from their stems and store in airtight containers. Save the stems for potpourri or to burn in the fireplace.

Thyme is a superb flavoring for fish

Thyme and sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana) are natural partners in the kitchen. Use them together, half-and-half. Thyme goes well with dairy products such as cheese dishes, butter, and cream sauces (in the Alps, wild thyme leaves are used to flavor goat cheeses); seafood such as clam chowder, crab, lobster, mussels, scallops, and herring; meats such as poultry, beef, lamb, pork or veal; and vegetables such as carrots, celery root, potatoes, beets, tomatoes, leeks, zucchini, olives and cucumber. Lemon thyme is very nice in custards. I steep thyme leaves in vinegar and use the infusion with olive oil in salads; I also sprinkle salads with snippets of the fresh leaf. (For recipes employing the various culinary thymes, see Recipes Section.)

THYME SPECIES & CULTIVARS

Thymes come in upright varieties, creeping varieties, and varieties that fall somewhere in between. Most may be used in cooking, although the upright varieties tend to produce more leaves for this purpose. Upright thymes, usually forms or close relatives of common or English thyme (Thymus vulgaris), reach about a foot in height at maturity. Creeping thymes, many of which are cultivars or subspecies of wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum) can reach anywhere from 1/2 to 6 inches high. Caraway thyme (Thymus herba-barona) is one of the in-betweens.

Warning: Botanical classification of thymes has undergone vast revision over the years and continues to this day. One of the biggest changes has been the change of Thymus praecox to Thymus polytrichus. We welcome feedback regarding our classifications, as it is difficult for any one site to keep track of every change coming down the pike. Thanks!

Thymus alsinoides: Obscure species with lavender blossoms.

Thymus argenteus: See Thymus citriodorus ‘Argenteus’ below.

Thymus ‘Argenteus’ (Silver Thyme): To 10″ tall. Silvery mini-shrub with a strong, conventional thyme fragrance and flavor and grey (or olive) leaves margined thinly in cream. Light pink to lilac pink flowers. Zones 6-9. Once thought to be a simple cultivar of T. vulgaris (see below), but DNA research has shown it to be a hybrid possessing an enormously high thymol content, to 55%. According to the Thyme Register, it is sold under several species names.

Thymus aureus: See Thymus citriodorus ‘Aureus’ below.

Thymus broussonetii: 5-12″ tall. Tender, pine- or, some say, lemon-and-varnish-scented, Moroccan perennial subshrub, multi-branched, with erect, 4-sided shoots, furry throughout or on two sides, clothed with oval green leaves that are sometimes widest in the middle. The lavender-pink flowers (one sources describes them, puzzlingly, as “red-green”) are held in large 1.5″ half-globular clusters, protected by prominent, finely hairy, purple-green bracts. Zones 9-11.

Thymus caespititius: [caespititius = "tending to form a mat or mound"] 2-4″ tall x 1′ wide. Dwarf, aromatic, thickly mat- or mound-forming shrub with narrow green spoon-shaped, smooth, pine-scented leaves to 1/4″/6mm long, fringed with tiny hairs; the overall effect has been described as “featherlike.” The rose, lilac or white flowers are borne in small, flattened mat-hugging whorled heads from late spring to early summer. Native to dry rocky hillsides of Portugal, Spain, and the Azores. Zones 6-9. Called Razen-Thymian in German. Syn. T. azoricus Lodd.; T. micans Sol. ex Lowe. Sometimes called Tufted Thyme, though that seems like a monicker better applied to T. cherlerioides below. For T. caespititius ‘Aureus‘, see T. vulgaris ‘Golden Pins’ below.

Thymus camphoratus

Thymus camphoratus (Camphor-Scented Thyme): [camphoratus = "camphor-like"] Syn. T. algarbiensis Lange. 4-16″ tall, with small, grey, narrowly oval, slightly succulent leaves, woolly on their upper surfaces. The tiny greenish-white or pinkish early to midsummer blossoms are carried in round clusters and are protected by oval, woolly, purple-green bracts. The entire plant is pleasingly scented of camphor. Drought-tolerant species native to Portugal; can take some frost and is evergreen in mild climates. Has been used in cooking to flavor strong meats such as game. Zones 7-10.

  • T. camphoratus ‘Derry’: Pink flowers. Introduced by Derry Watkins (USA).

The thyme of the ancients?

Thymus capitatus (Conehead Thyme; Persian Hyssop; Rose-Colored Thyme): [capitatus = "forming a head"] 5-10″ tall. Compact woody perennial with rising, slightly spiny stems and narrow, fleshy, oil-gland-dotted green leaves to .48″/12mm long. The pink flowers, two-fifths of an inch long, are held in cone-shaped clusters at the ends of their stems in mid to late summer; they are protected by overlapping, .24″/6mm long, red-tinged bracts, edged in tiny hairs. Native to Mediterranean Europe and Turkey. Known in French as le thym zaatar (“za’atar thyme”), and believed by some authorities to be the thyme referred to in ancient Greek and Roman literature. Syn. Cordiothymus capitatus; Satureja capitata; Thymbra capitata. Zones 7-11.

Thymus cappadocicus (Cappadocian Thyme): [cappadocicus = "of or from Cappadocia"] Native to the rocky slopes of Turkey. Pointed, narrow leaves, longer than the nodes between them, with their edges turned under and silky hairs on their undersides. The flowers are few.

Thymus carnosus: [carnosus = "having the texture of flesh"] Woody, upright perennial to 16″ tall, with clusters of thick, soft, oval, light green to grey-green leaves, furry on their undersides. The white, lilac, or pink flowers are borne on 16″ spikes and are protected by oval green bracts. Native to Southern Portugal. Zones 7-11.

Carpathian thyme

Thymus carpaticus (Carpathian Thyme): [carpaticus = "of or from the Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe"] To 4″ tall. A xeric, hairy-stemmed, evergreen species clothed with aromatic, decorative, dark green leaves and loose heads of profuse dark purple blossoms. Plants form a loose turf over time. Needs superb drainage and dry soil. Called mateřídouška karpatská in Czech. Syn. T. sudeticus.

Thymus cherlerioides (Silver Needle Thyme; Hairy Thyme): 6-10″ tall. Dense tufts of creeping shoots, clothed with narrow, minutely hairy to velvety leaves held flat against their stems; the needly leaves have turned-under edges that are fringed with fine hairs, too, nice to touch. The tiny pink blossoms are carried in spring on 3.2″ long upright stems; they are protected by 1/10″ wide green (occasionally purple) bracts. Native to the Central Balkan Peninsula. Great edging or paving stone plant! Zones 5-11. Called Polster-Thymian in German; krími kakukkfû in Hungarian. Syn. T. boissieri Hal.; T. hirsutus auct. non Bieb. [hirsutus = hairy]; T. tauricus [tauricus = of or from the Taurus Mountains]; T. tymphrestus.

Thymus ciliatus: [ciliatus = "fringed; possessing soft hairs"] Native to Northwest Africa, with two kinds of leaves: the ones at the base of the plant are narrow and fringed with tiny hairs; the ones on the flowering stems are oval and unfringed. Red or violet flowers, to .4″ long, are carried in .8″-wide whorls. Zones 6-9.

  • T. ciliatus ‘Caborn Lilac Gem’ : Lilac flowers.
  • T. ciliatus ‘Caborn Purple Haze’ : Purple flowers.
  • T. ciliatus ‘Caborn Rosanne’ : Rose-pink flowers.
  • T. ciliatus ssp. coloratus: Purple-tinged bracts.
  • T. ciliatus ssp. euciliatus: Flowers larger, with green bracts.

Thymus cilicicus (Cilician Thyme): [cilicicus = "of Cilicia in Southern Turkey"] To 6″ tall x 8″ wide. Compact, mounded to tussocky subshrub with minutely furred stems and narrow, aromatic, deep green leaves covered with fine hairs underneath and at their margins. The dense hemispheres of tiny, purple-bracted, pink, mauve or lilac flowers are carried at the ends of their stems in midsummer. Native to Turkey and Asia Minor and very decorative. Zones 5-9.

Thymus citriodorus

Thymus citriodorus (Lemon Thyme; Lemon-Scented Thyme; Green Lemon Thyme): [citriodorus = "having the odor of citrus"] 8-12″ tall x 10″ wide, with semi-upright, hairy stems and ovalish, diamond shaped to narrow, dark green, glossy, sweetly lemon-scented leaves to 1/2″ long. The pale lilac to light pink summer flowers are borne in irregular oblong clusters; they are protected by leaflike bracts. Zones 6-9.

According to an article appearing in Plant Heritage, Vol. 12, No. 2, Autumn 2005 issue, originally named Thymus citriodorus when it was first described in 1812; since the 1970′s it has been considered a naturally occurring garden cross, unknown in the wild, probably (say various sources) between Thymus pulegioides and Thymus vulgaris. For that reason, in many books lemon-scented thyme appears as T. x citriodorus.

Recent DNA studies, however, have shown that the hybrid nature of this plant is highly unlikely, so it has been proposed among botanists — and accepted by many — that the plant be once again thought of as a species rather than a hybrid. Lemon-scented thyme is known in German as Zitronenthymian; in Hungarian as citromillatú kakukkfû.

Of lemon thyme 17th century garden writer Jon Parkinson said:

“The wild Thyme that smelleth like unto Pomecitron or Lemon, hath many weake branches trayling on the ground … with small darke greene leaves, thinly or sparsedly set on them, and smelling like unto a Lemon, with whitish flowers at the Toppes in roudels or spikes.”

A delicious culinary thyme, particularly suited to chicken and fish dishes, and highly decorative; it has been recommended for use in knot gardens. Known in French as le thym citron. Many ornamental forms have been developed or selected from the original (all are hardy from Zones 5-9 unless otherwise noted), including:

  • T. citriodorus ‘Archer’s Gold’: See T. pulegioides ‘Archer’s Gold’.
  • T. citriodorus ‘Argenteus’ (Silver Lemon Thyme): To 10″ tall. Compact mound of thinly white-edged, green, strongly lemon scented and flavored leaves that Sandy Mush calls “shimmering”. Does well in hanging baskets and is highly recommended for cooking. Sometimes listed simply as T. argenteus or T. argentus. Not to be confused with T. ‘Argenteus’, which smells and tastes not of lemon but of conventional garden thyme (see above).
  • T. citriodorus ‘Argenteus Variegatus’ (Variegated Silver Lemon Thyme): Compact, with narrow, silver-edged green leaves. Could be the same cultivar as the preceding.
  • T. citriodorus ‘Aureus’: Recently reclassified as T. pulegioides ‘Aureus’, which see.
  • T. citriodorus ‘Bertram Anderson’: Recently renamed T. pulegioides ‘Bertram Anderson’, which see.
  • T. citriodorus ‘Creeping Golden Lemon’: To 4″ tall. Shiny dark green lemon-scented leaves variegated in gold; lavender flower spikes. Said to be useful in cooking. Zones 5-9.
  • T. citriodorus f. argenteus ‘Hi Ho Silver’: To about 1′ tall, with green lemon-scented leaves irregularly splashed with white. Zones 4-11.
  • Most-Fragrant-Thyme in bloom

    T. citriodorus ‘Fragrantissimus’: To 1′ tall. Slim, upright plants bear orange-scented, grey-green leaves and white flowers flushed pale pink (Bremness describes the leaf-scent as sweet and fruity and the flowers as pale lilac). The variety name means “most fragrant” in Latin, and indeed this plant is highly recommended for culinary use with sweet and savory dishes. Also listed as Thymus fragrantissimus, Thymus ‘Fragrantissimus’, and Thymus vulgaris ‘Fragrantissimus’.

  • T. citriodorus ‘Golden King’: To 10″ tall x 18″ wide. A nonflowering variety, upright and bushy, with gold-edged leaves. Also listed as T. citriodorus ‘Villa Nova’.
  • T. citriodorus ‘Golden Queen’: Loose clusters of stems clothed in pale green leaves lightly variegated in gold; mauve blossoms.
  • T. citriodorus ‘Green Lime’: Medium to dark green lemon-scented leaves, darker than those of T. citriodorus ‘Lime’ below.
  • T. citriodorus ‘Lemon Supreme’: Light mauve flowers on vigorous plants with much richer lemon scent than that of most lemon thymes. From Roger Bastin in the Netherlands.
  • T. citriodorus ‘Lime’ (Lime Thyme): 8-12″ tall. A mounding ground cover thyme with bright chartreuse-y green, slightly to powerfully lime scented and flavored leaves. Pretty lavender-pink flowers in July and August. Zones 5/6-9.
  • T. citriodorus ‘Minus’ (Minus Thyme): Listed by at least one authority as T. praecox subsp. arcticus ‘Minor’. Tiny leaves on dwarf plants.
  • T. citriodorus ‘Nyewoods’: Tiny, pale greenish-yellow leaves, intricately veined, each bearing a green stripe down the center.
  • T. citriodorus ‘Silver-Edged’ (Silver-Edged Lemon Thyme): To 6″ tall. Silver-edged green leaves; pink flowers in July and August.
  • Smell the lemon?

    T. citriodorus ‘Silver Queen’: To 10″ tall. A variegated form, its small, lemon-scented leaves finely marbled cream to dull silver; the leaf-buds at the ends of the stems can turn rose-pink in winter, and the pale pink to lilac blossoms appear in summer.

  • T. citriodorus ‘Upright Golden Lemon’: To 10″ tall. Dark green, upright bushlets spattered with gold; lovely lemon scent. Zones 7-9.

Thymus ‘Clear Gold’: 3-5″ tall. Old cultivar, possibly a T. pulegioides hybrid, bearing chartreuse leaves scented of lemon and varnish, and sometimes sparse lavender-pink flowers in June and July. Zones 5-9. Syn. T. ‘Transparent Gold’. Some plants sold as T. serpyllum ‘Aureus’ are in fact this cultivar.

Thymus ‘Coccineus Group’: Alternative name for T. serpyllum ‘Coccineus’, which see below. Also listed as T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Coccineus’. A group of creeping thymes characterized by their small leaves and reddish-rose blossoms.

Thymus ‘Coconut’: Dense mats of glossy green leaves and bright pink blossoms. Doesn’t smell like coconut, but the Thyme Register does say it has a nice fragrance. May belong properly to T. polytrichus ssp. britannicus, which see below.

Thymus comosus (Comosus Thyme): [comosus = "having long hair; hairy"] To 4″ tall when not in flower. Aromatic central European mat-former with tiny, oval, smooth to slightly hairy, mid-green leaves, finely fringed below. Clusters of tiny pink or purple flowers are borne on 5.6″ long stems in midsummer. Zones 5-9.

Thymus ‘Creeping Orange’: German cultivar with an open habit, and very furry orange-scented leaves. Light pink flowers.

Thymus ‘Dartmoor’: To 1.2″ tall. Furry grey-green leaves and lilac-pink summer blossoms. A British cultivar recommended for thyme lawns, introduced by Southcombe Garden Nursery.

Wee, sweet Thymus doerfleri

Thymus doerfleri (Doerfler’s Thyme): [doerfleri = pertaining to J. D. Doerfler, who discovered the species in Albania in 1916] 3-6″ tall x 18″ wide. Ground hugger with very small, narrow, slightly rough-textured, slightly fragrant, densely hairy leaves in closer clusters that those of woolly thyme (T. pseudolanuginosus, which see below). In summer there appears tiny soft pink or purple flowers (Bremness calls them “mauve”), protected by leaf-like bracts, held at the ends of their stems. Requires excellent drainage. Native to Albania. Zones 6-9. Syn. T. hirsutus var. doerfleri (Ronn.) Ronn. Known in German as Dörflers-Thymian. Known in Hungarian as albán kakukkfû.

  • T. doerfleri ‘Bressingham’: 2-4″ tall x 12-14″ wide. Syn. T. doerfleri ‘Bressingham Pink’. This cultivar is often placed with T. praecox and listed simply as ‘Bressingham’. Clear pink summer flowers on prostrate mats of small, narrow, hairy grey leaves.

Thymus ‘Doone Valley’: Also listed as Thymus x citriodorus ‘Doone Valley’. 3-6″ tall x 14-18″ wide. Exquisite mat-former with dark green leaves vividly splashed in gold; the leaves turn mostly green in the hottest summer months, and become reddish in winter. 3-4″ long flowerheads of crimson-red buds open to lavender-pink blossoms (Bremness calls them “pale purple”) in July and August, adding to the show. A must for the rock garden! Mulch with gravel. Zones 5/6-9 on moist, very well-drained soils.

Thymus drucei: See T. polytrichus below.

Thymus ‘Duftkissen’: 4-6″ tall. Award-winning, very cold hardy hybrid between T. cherlerioides and T. vulgaris. Dense cushions with pink blossoms.

Thymus dzevanoskyi: To 1″ tall. Wee, slender-leaved, grey-green Russian carpeting thyme spangled with lilac blossoms; Sandy Mush describes it as “delicate and ethereal.” Zones 5-8.

Thymus ‘English Broadleaf’: To 12-16″ tall. Broad green leaves, powerfully scented and flavored of thyme; claimed by one authority to be “the major source” for medicinal oil of thyme. Sometimes classified under T. vulgaris, though ‘English Broadleaf’ has been found to possess far more potent essential oils than T. vulgaris does. May be a cultivar of T. pulegioides (see below). White summer flowers. Native to the Mediterranean, including Greece. Zones 4-9.

Thymus ‘English Variegated’: 8-12″ tall. According to Mulberry Creek Herb Farm’s website, an antique variety useful in cooking, marked with a “splish-splash” variegation. Zones 4-9.

Thymus ‘Hardstoft Red’: Dark green leaves variegated creamy-white; carmine red blossoms. According to The Thyme Register, a “variegated sport of [T. serpyllum] ‘Coccineus’ from Hardstoft Herb Garden, U.K.

Thymus ‘Hartington Silver’: To 1.2″ tall. Creeping mat-former with tiny dark green, cream-edged, lemon-scented leaves and light pink summer flowers. Ideal for paving stones, edgings, and rockeries. Zones 5-8. According to an article, “Much Ado About Naming,” that appeared in the Vol. 13, No. 1, Spring 2006 issue of Plant Heritage, this is the same cultivar discovered at Hartington in Northumberland, England, and named ‘Hartington Silver’ by Frank and Marjorie Lawley of Herterton House Garden. Another specimen was discovered subsequently by the owner of a nursery named Highland Liliums growing in a different private garden, and since the garden’s owner claimed she didn’t know the name of the plant, the Highland Liliums nurseryowner named it Thymus ‘Highland Cream’. The earlier name is the official one. Clear as mud? Also formerly listed as T. serpyllum ‘Albus Variegatus’.

Thymus herba-barona (Caraway Thyme; Herb Baron): [herba-barona = "herb Baron", the Corsican name for the plant] 4-6″ tall x 1′ wide or more. Dwarf, vigorous, loosely carpeting subshrub native to Corsica and Sardinia. Stems are wiry and reddish, with rather widely spaced, tiny, 1/4″ long, shiny, dark green, furry, faintly caraway-seed-scented and flavored leaves and pink to rose to mauve midsummer flowers in drooping, low-lying, irregular, loose clusters. One of the few strongly scented ground cover thymes. Used in the Middle Ages to flavor baron of beef; hence the common name. Makes a great ground cover for rock gardens in full sun; can do well in hanging baskets and pots; and is very nice planted between paving stones. Tip-pruning stimulates branching. Zones 5-9.

Called in French le thym de Corse; in German Korsischer-Thymian (Corsican Thyme) or Kümmelthymian (Caraway Thyme); and in Hungarian köményes kakukkfû (Caraway Thyme).

  • T. herba-barona ‘Bob Flowerdew’ (Chocolate-Scented Thyme): A selection from the species, the leaves of which are supposed to possess a faint chocolate scent. Selected by U.K. breeder Bob Flowerdew and named for him by a third party.
  • T. herba-barona ‘Caraway-Scented’ (Caraway-Scented Thyme): A selection from the species, with extra-fragrant leaves.
  • T. herba-barona ‘Citriodora’ (Lemon Caraway Thyme; Lemon Carraway Thyme): 1-4″ tall. As above, with a strong scent of lemon with a hint of caraway seed. Nice between pavers. Syn. T. herba-barona ‘Citrata’; T. herba-barona citrata; T. herba-barona ‘Lemon’; T. herba-barona ‘Lemon-Scented’; T. herba-barona ‘Caraway-Lemon’. Occasionally called (confusingly) Creeping Lemon Thyme, which it is not (see T. citriodorus above).
  • T. herba-barona ‘Lemon Carpet™’: A lemon caraway clone from Richter’s in Canada, with a very low, creeping habit. The leaves are lemon-scented with a faint undertone of spice.
  • T. herba-barona ‘Nutmeg’ (Nutmeg Thyme): Fast-spreading creeper to 4″ tall, with spice-scented leaves and short fat deepish pink flower clusters in late summer, several weeks after T. herba-barona opens its blossoms. Sandy Mush recommends it as a cooking thyme for use with poultry, soups, and vegetables.

Thymus heretus: margined,

Thymus ‘Highland Cream’: See Thymus ‘Hartington Silver’.

Thymus integer (Cypress Thyme): [integer = "whole, undivided"] To 4″ tall. Low-growing shrub with gnarled, spreading branches. The leaves are narrow, pointed, woolly, thick-margined, and stalkless, with an edging of fine hairs. March to June, furry flowering stems arise to about 3″ tall, terminating in sparse pink flower clusters. Native to rocky hillsides, on cultivated land, and under pine trees on igneous rock formations in the Troodos Mountains and Akamas area of the island of Cypress from 300 ft to 5000 ft. Zones 5-9.

Thymus ‘Jekka’: To 4″ tall, with highly aromatic, well-flavored, mid-green leaves and clusters of small pink summer blossoms. Said to be a good culinary variety. Introduced by Jekka’s Herb Farm, U.K.

Thymus ladjanuricus: 2-3″ tall x 20″ wide. Drought resistant mat-former with spoonshaped or narrowly straight leaves and nearly globular clusters of narrow-tubed pink flowers in May. The flowers are protected by bellshaped calyxes fringed with long hairs. Native to rocky places of the western Transcaucasus in Russia, and highly recommended as a ground cover for rockeries. Zones 5 (with excellent drainage) or 6-9.

Thymus ‘Lemon Curd’: See Thymus serpyllum ‘Lemon Curd’ below.

Thymus ‘Lemon Frost’: To 1″ tall. Prostrate, with sweetly lemon-scented foliage. Said to need regular water; recommended for stepping-stone work. May rebloom in fall. Possibly a T. citriodorus cultivar. Zones 5-9.

Thymus leucotrichus (Turkish Thyme): [leucotrichus = "white-haired"] To 6″ tall x 8″ wide. Creeping, compact, bushy subshrub, with needly, pointed, narrow, short-stemmed, hairy, powerfully aromatic leaves; their flavor has been described as like that of a sharp English thyme. The flowers are in whorls, pink to purple, barely peeking from their calyxes, protected by greenish-purple bracts; they are borne in profusion in early spring. For normal to dryish, well-drained soils in full sun. Zones 5-9.

Thymus ‘Lemon Mist’: A low-growing, narrow-bladed creeper with lemon scented leaves and light lavender blossoms. Parentage uncertain.

Thymus ‘Lilac Time’: To 1.2″ tall. Tiny dark green mats, evergreen in mild climates, spangled with tiny mauve summer blossoms.

Thymus linearis subsp. linearis: [linearis = "narrow; with sides nearly parallel"]: See T. quinquecostatus below.

Thymus ‘Linear Leaf Lilac’: To 3″ tall. A cascading variety with narrow, 1/2″ long leaves and largish lilac flowers. Zones 7-9.

Thymus longicaulis (Pine Scented Thyme): [longicaulis = "long-stemmed"] To 4″ tall in flower. Dwarf, far-spreading, creeping shrub, with soft, narrow, furry, sometimes fleshy, narrow, short-lived leaves, sweetly pine-scented, edged with soft hairs. The flowering stems are furry, too, with purplish-pink flowers in summer protected by leaflike bracts. Has been used to flavor meat and game dishes. Native to Southern Europe. Syn. T. kosanii Ronn.; T. lykae Deg. & Jáv.; T. malyi Ronn.; T. moesisicus Velen.; T. rohlenae Velen.; T. serpyllum subsp. dalmaticus (Rchb.) Nyman.

Thymus longiflorus: [longiflorus = "having elongated flowers"] To 1′ tall x 10″ wide, with gradually rising, closely branched, hairy stems and small, narrow, furry leaves to 1/2″ long with turned-under edges. The slightly elongated pink blossoms (the species name translates to “long-flowered”) are borne in summer and are protected by large, prominent, oval, leathery green-purple bracts. Native to Southeastern Spain and hardy. Zones 5-9. Syn. T. funkii Coss; T. moroderi Martinez.

Thymus ‘Longwood’: To 5″ tall. Pointed grey-green woolly leaves and long spikes of lilac-purple blossoms. Zones 5/6-8/9. Sandy Mush says it smells and taste like lemon thyme, and lists it under T. pseudolanuginosus.

Thymus mastichina

Thymus mastichina (Mastic Thyme): Sometimes confused with Thymus thracicus, which see below. Vigorous, upright, 12-20″ tall x 16″ wide subshrub with hairy stems bears oval to narrowish, furry, often minutely scalloped green leaves connected to their main stalks by very short leaf-stems. The off-white blossoms are borne abundantly in summer in rounded .8″-wide clusters; the blooms barely peek from their surrounded calyxes, and are protected by leaflike bracts.

The scent of the leaves has been described as “powerfully camphoraceous” and as being a primary source for the medicinal essential oil called “oil of marjoram.” Used medicinally. Native to Spain and Portugal. Zones 7-10. Could this be the “Masticke Tyme” described by 17th century garden writer Jon Parkinson?

  • T. mastichina ‘Didi’: Pink-flowered cultivar from Culpeper Herb Company that is not as strongly scented as the type.
  • T. mastichina Eucalyptus-Scented Group: Eucalyptus scented, green to grey-green foliage; white blossoms.
  • T. mastichina ‘Hardy Mastichina’: According to The Thyme Register, a variety “reportedly more cold hardy than species typical.”
  • T. mastichina Lavender-Scented Group: Green to grey-green leaves and white blossoms carry a lavender-like aroma, thanks to their high linolool content.

Thymus membranaceus: [membranaceus = "possessing a membrane", referring to the bracts] 8″ tall x 8″ wide. Little round green shrublets with rising shoots and narrow, pointed, 1/2″ long grey-green leaves. Oval heads of long-tubed white blossoms to 1/2″ long are borne in summer, protected by conspicuous greenish-white bracts. Nice interplanted with T. longiflorus (see above), which it resembles. Native to Spain and Portugal. Zones 7-10. Recommended for the alpine house. Cut back immediately after flowering.

Thymus micans: [micans = "glittering or shiny", like mica] See T. caespititius above.

Thymus montanus: [montanus = "mountain"] Syn. T. pulegioides below.

Thymus nummularius (Caucasian Thyme): [nummularius = "resembling coins", a reference to the leaves] Syn. T. pseudonummularius Klokov. & Desj.-Shost. Iranian subshrub 5-12″ tall, with stems that creep along for a bit then rise upward. They are clothed with small, smoothy, glossy, green, oval, mildly oregano-scented leaves fringed with tiny hairs and topped with bright pink to lilac-purple clusters of summer flowers protected by leaflike purple bracts. Suitable for a mini-hedge. Zones 7?-10. Sometimes misspelled T. nummuliris; T. nummilaris.

Thymus odoratissimus: [odoratissimus = "most fragrant"] To 6″ tall. Upright to creeping stems with strongly scented narrow leaves partially edged with fine hairs, and little heads of pale pink flowers protected by narrow bracts. Native to Southern Russia. Zones 6?-9. Syn. T. pallasianus subsp. pallasianus.

Thymus pannonicus: [pannonicus = "of or from Hungary", which was formerly called Pannonia] To 8″ tall, with narrow green leaves and pale pink or red blossoms. Native to Southwest and Central Europe. Zones 5-9. Rare in the trade and sounds beautiful! Syn. (hold on to your hats!) T. dzevanoskyi Klovkov & Desj.-Shost.; T. latifolius (Besser) Andrz.; T. marschallianus Willd.; T. serpyllum subsp. auctus Lyka; T. serpyllum subsp. brachyphyllus Lyka; T. serpyllum subsp. marschallianus (Willd.) Nyman; T. stepposus Klokov. & Desj.-Shost. Called in German Steppen-Thymian or Pannonischer Thymian.

Thymus ‘Pink Lemonade’: To 2″ tall. Quick-growing, dark green mats of closely spaced leaves scented of lemon; the flowers, which appear in summer after most thymes have bloomed out, are pink and profuse. Introduced by Mountain Valley Growers. Not a culinary variety. Zones 5-9.

Thymus ‘Pink Ripple’: To 2.4″ tall. Strongly scented and flavored ground cover thyme with small green leaves turning gold in summer and pink summer flowers. Said to be good in cooking.

Thymus polytrichus, formerly T. praecox ssp. polytrichus

Thymus polytrichus: [polytrichus = "possessing many hairs"] 2″ tall x 2′ wide. One of the bigger recent shakeups in thyme nomenclature resulted in substituting T. polytrichus for T. praecox. Mat-former with woody, ground-hugging stems and dark green, narrow leaves to 3/8″ long, fringed in very fine hairs. Small summer heads of mauve to purple (occasionally off-white) flowers protected by purple leaflike bracts. Small, fragrant, rounded, dark green leaves; pink flowers spring to summer. Hardy and evergreen. Said to be useful in cooking and to possess antibacterial and antifungal properties. Some varieties are more scented than others. Native to Southwest and Central Europe. Zones 5-9.

Syn. T. praecox; T. praecox ‘Porlock’; syn. Thymus ‘Porlock’; T. drucei. Known in French as le thym couché; in German, as Frühblühender Thymian or Kriech-Thymian.

  • T. polytrichus ‘Coconut’: To 3 or 4″ tall, with bright green leaves that do not smell to me in the least of coconut; in fact, many people cannot detect any scent from them whatsoever. Explanation? There may be several cultivars masquerading under this name. Pretty pink summer flowers in fat flower heads. Zones 5-9. Formerly, and still often listed as, T. praecox ‘Coconut’. Also listed as T. pulegioides coccineus and T. pulegioides f. coccineus ‘Coconut’.
  • T. polytrichus ‘Emerald Cushion’: To 1″ tall. Beautiful green groundhugging cushion, with lavender-pink flowers. Also listed as T. praecox ‘Emerald Cushion’, T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Emerald Cushion’, and occasionally even under T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Albus’ (!).
  • T. polytrichus ‘Hall’s Woolly’: Quick-spreading, furry mats to 3″ tall; lots of dark pink blossoms in spring. Zones 5-11. Formerly, and still often listed as, T. praecox ‘Hall’s Woolly’.
  • T. polytrichus ‘Mayfair’: 2-4″ tall, with leaves variegated bright gold and dark green. Pink flowers. Formerly, and still often listed as, T. praecox ‘Mayfair’ or T. x citriodorus ‘Mayfair’. Zones 5-9.
  • T. polytrichus ‘Mint’ (Mint Thyme): To 2″ tall. Dense, soft, slightly furry, quick-growing mats of bright green; pink flowers in spring. This cultivar appears to have been named mint thyme because of the green of its leaves, not for its fragrance; at least one source claims it is scentless, but Richter’s of Canada insists that the cultivar possesses a “discernable mint scent with a citrus overtone.” Zones 5-9. Usually listed as T. praecox ‘Mint’ or T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Mint’.
  • T. polytrichus ‘Minus’: [minus = "smaller"] To 1″ tall max. The tiniest leaves of almost any thyme on dense, ground-hugging green mats. Infinitesimal pink flowers. Charming! Makes a wonderful ground cover for bonsai. Formerly listed as Thymus minus, T. praecox ‘Minus’ or T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Minus’.
  • T. polytrichus ‘Nutmeg’ (Nutmeg Thyme): Sources that list it describe it as growing to 2″ tall, a quick spreader, with leaves with a strong scent (and milder flavor) of nutmeg and spice. Lavender-pink to purple blossoms in spring, recommended by Mulberry Creek as “delicate necessities for a faery garden.” Zones 5-9. Listed as T. praecox ‘Nutmeg’, Thymus sp. ‘Nutmeg’, or under T. praecox ssp. arcticus or T. serpyllum.
  • T. polytrichus ‘Reiter’s Red’ (Reiter’s Thyme): 3-5″ tall. Exuberant little matformer with widely-spaced leaf-pairs and showy bold pink blossoms in late spring or summer. Zones 5-9. Formerly, and still often listed as, T. praecox ‘Reiter’s Red’.
  • T. polytrichus ssp. britannicus: [britannicus = "of or from Great Britain"] Rose-pink flowers slightly tinier than the tiny flowers of the type, with furry stems. Formerly, and still often listed as, T. praecox ssp. arcticus; syn. T. drucei Ronniger. There are many named cultivars. They include:
  • T. polytrichus ssp. britannicus ‘Albus’: Once known as T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Albus’, and probably the same as T. praecox (ssp. arcticus) ‘Albiflorus’ and T. praecox (ssp. arcticus) ‘Thomas’s White’. Not, apparently, the same as what used to be called T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘White Moss’, though it is often claimed to be; the Thyme Register insists that ‘Albus’ is a distinct cultivar, saying that the white flowers are female (rather than hermaphroditic) and that therefore there are far fewer of them than are borne by ‘White Moss’, and that they are smaller, not more than 14/100ths of an inch long. In any case, this is a pretty plant ideal for edgings and pavers.
  • T. polytrichus ssp. britannicus ‘Purple Carpet’: To 2″ tall. Dark green lemon-scented mat-former with bright mauve-purple blossoms. Zones 2-9. Listed as T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Purple Carpet’.
  • T. polytrichus ssp. britannicus ‘White Moss’ (Creeping White Moss Thyme): To 2″ tall; 3″ in flower. Flat mat-former, fast-spreading, covered in spring with wee spikes of white blossoms. Great for flagstone work. Formerly, and still often listed as, T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘White Moss’. Apparently not the same as T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Albus’ (which see above), though it is often claimed to be.
  • T. polytrichus ssp. britannicus ‘Wild Garden Lavender’: Clear lavender flowers. Listed as T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Wild Garden Lavender’.

Thymus praecox: See Thymus polytrichus above.

Thymus praecox ‘Annie Hall’: See Thymus serpyllum ‘Annie Hall’ below.

Thymus praecox ‘Bressingham Pink’: See Thymus doerfleri ‘Bressingham’ above.

T. praecox ‘Coccineus’: See Thymus serpyllum ‘Coccineus’ below.

T. praecox ‘Pink Chintz’: See Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ below.

T. praecox ‘Goldstream’: See Thymus serpyllum ‘Goldsteam’ below.

T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Albus’: See T. polytrichus ssp. britannicus ‘Albus’ above.

Thymus praecox ssp. arcticus Annie Hall’: See Thymus serpyllum ‘Annie Hall’ below.

T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Coccineus’: See T. serpyllum ‘Coccineus’ below.

T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Roseus’: See T. polytrichus ssp. britannicus above.

T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Russettings’: See Thymus serpyllum ‘Russettings’ below.

T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Thomas’s White’: See T. polytrichus ssp. britannicus ‘Albus’ above.

T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Wild Garden Lavender’: See T. polytrichus ssp. britannicus ‘Wild Garden Lavender’ above.

Thymus pseudolanuginosus

Thymus pseudolanuginosus (False Woolly Thyme): [pseudolanuginosus = "false + woolly"] To 2″ tall. Nobody knows where this species originated, but it is a very popular matforming thyme in New Mexico. Furry grey leaves clothe four-sided stems; each stem is finely furred on two opposite sides. The few flowers are pale pink and borne in the leaf-axils around midsummer in NM; because it seldom blooms, this species has been recommended as a groundcover thyme for gardeners with bee-sting allergies. The plant is named for its resemblance to a rare species, T. lanuginosus (constantly misspelled in the trade as languinosis and variants). Most plants marketed under T. lanuginosus are T. pseudolanuginosus. Called in French le thym laineux. Zones 6-9 on very well-drained, gravelly soils.

  • Thymus pseudolanuginosus ‘Hall’s Variety’: To 4″ tall, with grey leaves and lavender-pink flowers.
  • Thymus pseudolanuginosus ‘Longwood’: See T. ‘Longwood’ above.
  • Thymus pseudolanuginosus ‘Wooly-Stemmed Early’: To 3″ tall, with small furry grey leaves and an appearance that Sandy Mush calls “pleasing[ly] misty.” Presumably called “Early” because it is earlier to flower than the type. Zones 6-8.

Broad-leaved thyme in closeup.

Thymus pulegioides (Broad-Leaved Thyme; Mother-of-Thyme; Mountain Thyme; Greater Wild Thyme): [pulegioides = "broad", a reference to the leaves] Intensely fragrant, drought-tolerant, sun-loving dwarf shrub from Europe, 2-10″ tall x 1′+ wide, with uprising, four-sided, furry-ridged stems. The strongly scented, green, rounded, lancelike leaves grow up to about 3/4″ long x 2/5″ wide and are clothed with fine hairs on their undersides. The clusters of tiny pink to purple flowers, which are protected by leaflike bracts, appear at intervals along the stems in late spring and early summer. The species has become naturalized in parts of North America. Zones 4-9.

Syn. T. alpestris auct., non Tausch ex A. Kerner; T. glaber Mill.; T. serpyllum ssp. carniolicus (Borb.) Lyka; T. montanus; T. serpyllum ssp. effusus (Host) Lyka; T. serpyllum ssp. parviflorus (Opiz ex H. Braun) Lyka; T. ucrainicus Klokov & Desj.-Shost. Called in Dutch grote tijm (Big Thyme); in French le thym à larges feuilles (Large-Leaved Thyme); in Hungarian, keskeny kakukkfû.

One of several species called by the common name “Mother-of-Thyme,” presumably because it was once seen as the wild precursor to cultivated thyme. The species name means “pennyroyal-like,” a reference to the shape of the leaves, which are strongly flavored and said to be useful in cooking. Richter’s says it “perfumes the air when trodden upon,” and adds helpfully, “Helps to clear mucous congestion.” Cultivars include:

  • T. pulegioides ‘Archer’s Gold’: Also listed as Thymus ‘Archer’s Gold’; formerly named T. citriodorus ‘Archer’s Gold’. Compact and vigorous, 2.5-4″ tall, with dense masses of rounded green-gold leaves and lavender-pink or pinkish-mauve flowers in July and August. Claimed by one source to possess culinary uses, particularly when used with vegetable dishes; by another, as a marvelous paving stone variety also good for hanging baskets. Recently reassigned to T. pulegioides from T. citriodorus (formerly T. x citriodorus).
  • T. pulegioides ‘Bertram Anderson’: Delicately lemon-scented mounding mat-former 1-4″ tall, with bright yellow and grey-green leaves that turn mostly green in hot weather, and pinkish-mauve or lilac flowers occurring rarely in July and August. Said by one source to be a good culinary variety, useful in vegetable cookery. Also listed as T. x citriodorus ‘Anderson’s Gold’; T. x citriodorus ‘E. B. Anderson’; Thymus ‘E. B. Anderson’. Recently reassigned to T. pulegioides from T. citriodorus (formerly T. x citriodorus).
  • Thymus pulegioides 'Aureus'

    T.
    pulegioides ‘Aureus’ (Golden Lemon Thyme; Embroidered Thyme): Small, upright bushlet to 6″ tall (one source says 8-12″), with small, green, gold-dappled leaves strongly scented of lemon; dappling fades in hot weather, and can revert to solid green. White to light pink flowers borne rarely in July and August. Space 9-12″ apart. This may be the thyme described by 17th century English plantsman Jon Parkinson as “Embroidered Tyme, that smelleth of Pome Citron.” Sometimes listed as T. aureus. Recently reassigned to T. pulegioides from T. citriodorus (formerly T. x citriodorus).
  • T. pulegioides ‘Cape May’: 2-6″ tall. Vigorous creeper with largish glossy fragrant leaves and upright 3-4″ stems of light pink flowers in July and August. Sandy Mush says it “thrives near [the] ocean.” Zones 5-8 (though another source claims it is hardy only from Zone 7). Sometimes offered simply as T. ‘Cape May’.
  • T. pulegioides ‘Dot Wells Creeping’: 2-4″ tall, with glossy green leaves and mauve to lavender flowers in July and August. Traditional thyme scent and flavor; recommended for cooking. Found by Sandy Mush Herbs not at the old Biltmore Estate & Nursery grounds in Asheville, NC as is sometimes reported, but at the “long-established” garden of one Dot Wells in Asheville, which had been landscaped “many years ago” by “the famous Biltmore Estate Gardens.” Hardy groundcover. Zones 5-9.
  • T. pulegioides ‘Dot Wells Upright’: Also listed simply as ‘Dot Wells’. 4-12″ tall, with grey-green, traditionally thyme scented leaves and mauve or lavender flowers in July and August. More vigorous than ‘Dot Wells Creeping’.
  • T. pulegioides ‘Elliott’s Gold’: Beautiful gold-leaved creeper that according to Hatfield makes an excellent plant for pots. Formerly T. serpyllum ‘Aureus’.
  • T. pulegioides ‘Foxley’ (Foxley Thyme): To 4″ tall, with round, well-flavored, green-and-cream, sometimes red-tipped leaves, and dark purplish-red summer flowers. Makes a good ground cover.
  • Thymus pulegioides 'Goldentime', formerly T. vulgaris 'Aureus'

    T. pulegioides ‘Goldentime’: Recently reclassified from T. vulgaris ‘Aureus’ (sometimes listed as T. vulgaris ‘Aurea’). Beautiful thyme-scented yellow-gold foliage; rose-purple flowers.

  • T. pulegioides ‘Kermesinus’: To 2″ tall, with magenta, rose, or crimson-red flowers in July and August.
  • T. pulegioides ‘Lemon’: To 2″ tall. Vigorous creeper with richly lemon scented foliage and lavender-pink flowers in July and August. Called in German Breitblättriger Thymian. Not the same as T. citriodorus ‘Aureus’.
  • T. pulegioides ‘Lemon King’: Dark green lemon-scented creeper with dark rose-red flowers. Formerly T. serpyllum ‘Citriodorus’.
  • T. pulegioides ‘Oregano-Scented’ (Oregano Thyme): Syn. T. pulegioides ‘Oregano’. 4-12″ tall, with deliciously oregano-and-thyme scented and flavored, broad-leaved foliage and up to four weeks of lavender-pink flowers in July and August. Prune mature specimens back about a third after they flower to encourage new growth and discourage legginess. Great for cooking; I much prefer its scent and flavor to those of the so-called culinary oreganos misleading the herb world. Zones 5-9.
  • T. pulegioides ‘Pennsylvania Dutch Tea’: 6-10″ tall. Large, oval, dark green aromatic, strongly scented and flavored leaves (Sandy Mush calls their flavor “unique”); pink flowers in July and August. May be substituted for standard English thyme (T. vulgaris) in cooking, fresh or dried. Looks a lot like T. pulegioides ‘Oregano-Scented’ above. Zones 5-9.
  • T. pulegioides ‘Sir John Lawes’: Highly compact mats with pink blossoms. Introduced by Margaret Easter of LW Plants in 2001, who discovered this variety on Harpenden Commons in the U.K.
  • T. pulegioides ‘Sundon Hills’: A lemon-scented variety collected in the year 2000 in Chiltern, U.K.
  • T. pulegioides ‘Tabor’: Flavorful, dark green rounded leaves and pinkflowers. Supposedly originated in Israel.
  • T. pulegioides ‘White Magic’ (White Magic Thyme): To 3″ tall, with lemon-scented leaves and lots of white flowers in July and August.

Thymus quinquecostatus: [quinquecostatus = "having five prominent ridges or veins"] Syn. Thymus serpyllum ssp. quinquecostatus. To 4″ tall. Wiry, furry, multi-branched creeper from the deserts of Mongolia and Japan, with cylindrical stems and smooth, blunt, oval leaves fringed with tiny hairs and dotted with reddish oil-glands above and below. The blossoms are carried in oval heads on short spikes from .8-2.4″ long; the blooms are pale lilac, purplish pink, rose pink, or violet, protected by tubular to bellshaped, usually purplish, gland-dotted calyxes. Zones 5-9. At least one authority has reclassified this species as T. linearis ssp. linearis.

  • T. quinquecostatus subsp. ibukiensis (Mongolian Thyme): Vibrant pink flowers on a low-growing plant to 2″ tall. Zones 5-9.

Thymus ‘Redstart’: To 2″ tall. Tiny aromatic dark green leaves and clusters of carmine red flower-buds in summer, opening to pink blossoms. Trim after flowering. Possibly a T. pulegioides hybrid.

Thymus richardii: [richardii = "of Richard or Richards"] To 4.8″ tall x 1′ wide. Dwarf creeper, spreading to loosely matforming, with scented oval green leaves to 1/2″ long and whorled heads of purple blossoms in late spring. Native to the Balearic Islands of Spain, Sicily, and Croatia. Zones 6-9. Not presently in the nursery trade.

  • T. richardii subsp. nitidus: [nitidus = "shining, glossy, polished"] Recently renamed T. vulgaris ‘Suditin’, which see below.
  • T. richardii subsp. nitidus ‘Albus’: Recently renamed T. vulgaris ‘Dorcas White’, which see below.
  • T. richardii ssp. nitidus ‘Peter Davis’: Presumably now to be considered a T. vulgaris cultivar, which see below.

Thymus ‘Rose-Scented’ (Rose Scented Thyme): To 8″ tall. Quick spreader, with largish bluish-green leaves lightly but distinctly scented of rose geranium. The blossoms are a pretty pinkish-lavender. Some plants are more aromatic than others. Zones 6-9.

Thymus serpyllum

Thymus serpyllum (Wild Thyme; Mother-of-Thyme; Horse Thyme; Shakespeare’s Thyme): “Serpyllum” is the Latin word for thyme and is said to have been derived from a Greek word meaning “to creep.” (It is often misspelled T. serphyllum.) Intensely fragrant dwarf shrubs from Northern Europe, 1.2″ to 4″ tall and up to 1′ wide, with creeping, furred stems and oval, furry leaves, clad underneath with fine delicate hairs. The rounded heads of clustered or whorled pink or purple flowers are borne in July and August.

According to Grieve, in the wild the plants grow in a wide variety of soils and locations, from the high plateaus and valleys of the Alps; “along ditches and roads”; in “old, stony, abandoned fields, dried-up lawns and [in] clearings;” in rocky dry places; and even in damp acidic clay soils. However, wild thyme prefers well-drained sandy or gravelly soils.

Elizabethan polymath Francis Bacon recommended wild thyme — along with watermint (Mentha aquatica) and salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) — as edging for garden paths. In Wales it was one of the fragrant flowers planted on graves, and the British Order of Oddfellows

Mother-of-thyme in blossom.

used to bring thyme sprigs to funerals to cast into the graves of their members. Folklore places wild thyme as one of the fragrant plants that formed the Virgin Mary’s bedding. Wild thyme tea was once recommended for relieving headache pain.

Called in French le thym sauvage (Wild Thyme) or le serpolet, Thymus serpyllum was adopted as a symbol by the pro-French Republic factions that overthrew the French monarchy, tufts of it being sent along when members were summoned to a meeting. Also, wild thyme is, or was, the badge of the Scottish Drummond clan.

Some confusion in the botanic literature about whether certain cultivars belong with T. serpyllum or T. praecox (see above); such discrepancies are noted in the text. According to Hortus Third, most plants sold as T. serpyllum in the U.S.A. belong to other species. All varieties listed flower in July and August unless otherwise noted. Varieties include:

  • T. serpyllum ‘Albus’ (Creeping White Thyme): [albus = "white"] Low-growing, to 1.2″ tall, with tiny bright green leaves and white flowers in summer. Helen S. Stephens (1956) called this species “darling,” and Wilson and Bell in The Fragrant Year call this cultivar “exquisite,” adding, “We love the dimity of its bright green mat sprigged in late May and June with rondels of pure white. It spreads unobtrusively through clumps of iris and phlox, fast enough to have patches to give to admirers.” Jekka’s Herb Farm recommends trimming the plants back after they bloom.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Annie Hall’: Syn. T. praecox ‘Annie Hall’. Low-growing, to 1.2″ tall, with small green leaves and pale purplish-pink flowers all summer. Likes a well-drained, sunny spot. Stephens says it is “similar to albus, more sprawling.”
  • T. serpyllum ‘Aureus’: Recently reclassified as T. pulegioides ‘Elliott’s Gold’, which see above.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Carol Ann’: Variegated gold and green mats spangled with tiny lilac flowers.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Citriodorus’: Recently reclassified as T. pulegioides ‘Lemon King’, which see above.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Coccineus’ (Red Creeping Thyme; Creeping Red-Flowered Thyme): [coccineus = "red"] Dark green aromatic creeper to 2.8″ tall, with dark rose-red flowers in summer. Also listed as Thymus Coccineus Group; T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Coccineus’.
  • Elfin thyme

    T. serpyllum ‘Elfin’: 1-3″ tall x 4″ wide. Very slow-spreading, mounding trailer with miniscule round green leaves; occasional pink flowers in summer. Says Mulberry Creek Herb Farm, “It mounds as though there was an elf’s home underneath.” For well-drained, regular to dryish soils in full sun. Nice ground cover for bonsais. Zones 4-9. Also listed as T. minus ‘Elfin’; T. ‘Minus Elfin’.

  • T. serpyllum ‘Goldstream’: To 1-2″ tall. Vigorous, attractive, green gold-mottled lemon-scented plants form tightly-knit mats with light lilac-pink to mauve to purplish-pink flowers in summer. All four sides of the stems are furred. One source describes the plant’s colors as being “like flecks of gold lying at the bottom of a stream that beckoned to gold-panners.” Also listed as T. praecox ‘Goldstream’. Zones 5-9. Not a culinary variety. Introduced by Bill Archer.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Hans Stam’: Pink flowers centered darker carmine-red. Listed under T. serpyllum, though the Thyme Register has some question about the validity of this.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Iden’: To 3.6″ tall, with aromatic small green leaves, hairs on all 4 sides of the square stems, and lots of sweet pink blossoms in late spring to early summer. According to The Thyme Register, probably the same as ‘Iden Early Pink’.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Lemon Curd’: To 6″ tall. Arching stems clothed with lemon-scented green leaves and pale pink summer flowers. Said to be a good culinary variety. A British cultivar (“lemon curd” is a kind of lemon-flavored pudding).
  • T. serpyllum ‘Lemon Drop’: To 1″ tall. Creeping mats of tiny, furry, light green lemon-scented leaves and pink flowers in hops-like heads. Zones 6-10.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Magic Carpet’: To 2″ tall. Deep soft pools of attractive, aromatic, small green leaves are awash from late spring to summer with numerous, conspicuous, mauve or carmine pink flowers. Zones 5-9. Recommended for use in thyme lawns.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Minimalist’: .8″ tall, with tiny dark green leaves and pink to mauve blossoms in summer. Ground cover; path edgings; stepping stones. Long sold under the invalid Latin name of T. serpyllum ‘Minimus’.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Minimus’: See T. serpyllum ‘Minimalist’ above.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Minor’: To 5″ tall. Lancelike 1/4″ long leaves and pink flowers on a compact plant.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Mountain’: Glossy creeper with deep plum blossoms.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Nutmeg’: See T. polytrichus ‘Nutmeg’.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’: To 2″ tall. Syn. T. praecox ‘Pink Chintz’. Spreading mats of furry olive green, sparkling with delicious light salmon pink blossoms much of the summer. Recommended for use in rock gardens. Mulch with gravel. Zones 5-9.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Pink Ripple’: To 3″ tall, with pink flowers.
  • Beautiful wild thyme.

    T. serpyllum ‘Rainbow Falls’: To 2″ tall. Variegated gold and green leaves, flushed red, with lilac-pink flowers.

  • T. serpyllum ‘Rosea’: Also listed as T. serpyllum ‘Roseus’. To 2″ tall. Lavender-pink flowers (Stephens calls them “bright rosy-lavender”) in July and August.
  • T. serpyllumRussetings‘: Dark green to bronze leaves on 1.2″ plants; lavender-pink to mauve-purple blossoms in summer. Unusual and attractive ground cover. Mulch with gravel. Also listed as T. praecox ‘Russettings’; T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Russettings’.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Snowdrift‘: Creeping carpets to 1.2″ tall, with tiny round green aromatic leaves and masses of clear white blossoms in summer. Trim after flowering. Ground cover. Mulch with gravel. Some classify this under the now obsolete terms T. praecox ssp. arcticus.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Splendens‘ (Firefly Thyme): Generally regarded as an improved clone of the cultivated form of T. serpyllum, though there is some controversy. Dark pink blossoms. Also listed as T. praecox ssp. arcticus ‘Splendens’.
  • T. serpyllum ssp. serpyllum: Syn. T. serpyllum ssp. angustifolius (Pers.) Arcang. Leaves of uniform size; flowers larger than those of T. serpyllum.
  • T. serpyllum ssp. tanaensis (N. Hylander) Jalas.: Leaves grow larger as they approach the flower clusters.
  • T. serpyllum ‘Vey’: To 1.2″ tall ground cover, with small, aromatic green leaves and tiny pale pink blossoms in summer. Trim after flowering and mulch with gravel.
  • Thymus thracicus (Thracian Thyme): [thracicus = "of Thrace"] Syn. T. alsarensis Ronn.; T. gabrielae; T. lanicaulis; T. longidens Velen.; T. nikolovii To 4.8″ tall x 2′ wide. Matformer with small leaves, and heads of mauve to purple blossoms in spring and early summer. The scent of the leaves is described as “varnish and honey.” Native to the Balkans and Turkey. Said to be the same as T. mastichina, but it is not. Known in German as Thrakischer Thymian or Langzahn-Thymian. Zones 5-11.

    • T. thracicus ‘Lavender’ (Lavender Thyme): To 8″ tall. Lightly to strongly lavender-scented leaves, and good for cooking (“great mustard enhancer” says Mulberry Creek). Known in German as Lavendelthymian.

    Thymus villosus: [villosus = "possessing soft hairs"] To 1′ tall x 10″ wide. Upright, woody-stemmed, spreading subshrub with narrow to pointed, woolly, aromatic green leaves the edges of which are turned under. Cone-shaped flower-heads appear summer to early fall, bearing purple blossoms protected by largish green bracts. Native to Spain and Portugal. Called Zottiger Thymian in German. Zones 6-9.

    English thyme dissected.

    Thymus vulgaris (Common Thyme; Garden Thyme; German Thyme; Winter Thyme; Black Thyme): [vulgaris = "common"] 6-12″ tall x 16″ wide. Native from the western Mediterranean to Southern Italy, and the most popular thyme for cooking in the West. Robust plants have a cushiony habit with upright, woody-based stems and narrow, pointed, highly aromatic green leaves, furry underneath, with rolled-under edges. The purple to white flowers are borne in whorls in late spring to early summer and protected by grey-green, leaflike bracts. Zones 4-9.

    Syn. T. aestivus Reut. ex Willk.; T. ilerdensis Gonzales ex Costa; T. valentinus Rouy; T. webbianus Rouy. Called by various names around the world, including:

    • FRENCH: le thym commun (Common Thyme)
    • GERMAN: Französischer-Thymian (French Thyme), Gartenthymian (Garden Thyme)
    • HUNGARIAN: kerti kakukkfû

    Of common thyme Jon Parkinson wrote (1629):

    “The ordinary Garden Thyme is a small woody plant with brittle branches, and small hard greene leaves, as every one knoweth having small white purplish flowers, standing round about the tops of the stalkes: the seed are small and browne, darker than [Marjoram] seed: the root is woody and abideth well divers [i.e., many] Winters.”

    Named varieties include:

    • T. vulgaris ‘Argenteus’ (Silver Thyme): [argenteus = "silver"] Sometimes listed simply as Thymus ‘Argenteus’. Not to be confused with silver lemon thyme (T. x

      Thyme growing wild in the Gargano Valley, Italy.

      citriodorus ‘Argenteus’) listed above. Aromatic silver-edged grey-green leaves; as DeBaggio’s points out, the overall effect of the plant is glowing silver. Lovely in cooking and beautiful in a thyme border interspersed with dark-leaved cultivars. Said to be the hardiest T. vulgaris cultivar.

    • T. vulgaris ‘Aureus’: See T. pulegioides ‘Goldentime’.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Bittersweet’: An odd garden thyme sport with extra-high carvacrol content, which gives the leaves an acrid, tarlike scent. Mentioned by Art Tucker and DeBaggio’s.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Compactus’ (Compact English Thyme): [compactus = "compact"] Dense growth, 4-6″ tall, with grey-tinted green leaves and light pink flowers July and August.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Dorcas White’: White blossoms on a compact bush with tiny narrow leaves. Named for the New Testament lady of means mentioned in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, who sewed for the poor. Her name now appears on a brand of sewing pins sold in the U.K. Formerly T. richardii subsp. nitidus ‘Albus’.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Erectus’: [erectus = "standing upright"] Unusual habit likened by The Index of Garden Plants to that of “a slow-growing miniature yew,” with narrow, camphor-scented, green-grey foliage and heads of white flowers held in clusters at the ends of their stems. Should make a wonderful bonsai specimen.
    • A sprig of common thyme.

      T. vulgaris ‘German Winter’ (German Winter Thyme): Perhaps the hardiest thyme, with strongly scented leaves excellent for cooking. To 8″ tall, with white flowers July and August. Zones 5-9.

    • T. vulgaris ‘Golden Pins’: Compact bush with tiny narrow golden leaves. Formerly known under the botanically invalid name T. ericoides ‘Aureus’; recently reassigned from T. caespititius ‘Aureus’.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Grey Hill’: To 6″ tall, forming neat frosty grey-green to grey mounds over time. White flowers July and August. The Thyme Register describes it as “like a more grey version of ‘Narrowleaf French’ (see below). Also listed as T. vulgaris ‘Gray Hill’.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Greek’: To 8″ tall, with white flowers July and August.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Hi-Ho Silver’: To 3″ tall, with bright silver margins wider and more showy than those of T. vulgaris ‘Argenteus’. White flowers July and August. From Hill Crest Nursery in Maryland; listed by DeBaggio.
    • 'Little Cutie' thyme

      T. vulgaris ‘Little Cutie’: Dwarf variety offered by Proven Winners™.

    • T. vulgaris ‘Miniature’: To 8″ tall, with white flowers July and August.
    • When in doubt, use thyme.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Narrowleaf French’ (Narrowleaf French Thyme; French Thyme; French Summer Thyme; German Thyme; Greek Thyme; Greek Grey Thyme): 12-16″ tall. A marvelous culinary variety, said to be preferred by chefs; the medium-sized green leaves are narrow and very sweetly fragrant. But Arthur O. Tucker and Michael J. Maciarello of Delaware State College’s Dept. of Agriculture & Natural Resources warn that “this cultivar name designates a seed line … [embodying] a wide range of variation in morphology as well as thymol content.” Since most narrowleaf French thyme plants are females, Tucker and Maciarello point out, the plants often outcross to other thymes with fertile pollen, which can result in seed-raised narrowleaf French progeny with little or no culinary value. Add Tucker and Maciarello, “We have had plants sold to us as ‘French thyme’ that had no business being in any kitchen, [much] less a French one.” Small lilac flowers. Zones 6-10.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Orange Balsam’ (Orange Balsam Thyme): To 1′ x 15″ wide at

      Common thyme in flower.

      maturity. Dense, dark green plants bear sharply pointed, powerfully aromatic leaves with rolled-under edges, the fragrance of which has been likened to that of orange and balsam. Recommended by one authority for use in grill-smoking browned meats and fish. The flowers are light pink, borne in July and August. Zones 5-9.

    • T. vulgaris ‘Peter Davis’: 6-8″ tall. A little silvery grey-green bush with 3/8″ long leaves and lots of pink flowers in spring. Listed as T. richardii subsp. nitidus ‘Peter Davis’, but as T. richardii subsp. nitidus has now been reassigned to T. vulgaris, it seems logical to reassign old Peter, too.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Pinewood’: To 6″ tall, with light pink flowers July and August.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Provençal’ (Provençal Thyme): 12-16″ tall x 2-3′ wide if left unpruned. Woody, upright habit, with tiny, pointed leaves described variously as blue-grey or grey-green; their edges roll under, and they have a marvelous fragrance and flavor. Superb culinary variety. Mature plants are said to develop a gnarled appearance. A DeBaggio introduction. Zones 5-9.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Rosa’s Delight’: To 8″ tall, with pink flowers July and August.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Silver Posie’: 8-10″ tall x 8-10″ wide. Small green leaves are beautifully margined in white; pale mauve to white blossoms.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Snow White’: Compact, with white blossoms. Formerly known as Miniature Thyme and under the botanically invalid name T. compactus albus.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Suditin’: Grey-green leaves on an upright bush; pale pink flowers. Recently reassigned to T. vulgaris; formerly known as T. richardii subsp. nitidus.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Tabor’: To 6″ tall, with pink flowers July and August.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Tall German’ (German French Thyme): To 10″ tall, with white flowers July and August.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Wellsweep Variegated’: To 6″ tall, with variegated leaves and white flowers in July and August. A Well-Sweep Herb Farm introduction.
    • T. vulgaris ‘Wellsweep Wedgewood’: To 6″ tall, with light lavender flowers in July and August. A Well-Sweep Herb Farm introduction.

    Thymus zygis (Sauce Thyme; Spanish Thyme; Wood Marjoram): To 1′ tall. Upright or rising woody, slightly furred stems clothed in narrow, furry green leaves with rolled-under edges. The purple or off-white flowers are borne in interrupted 4″ spikes, the bracts protecting the flowerheads extending beyond them. Native to Spain and Portugal. According to Grieve, a common sight throughout Spain and Portugal, growing in woodlands and “dry, gravelly places” in the sierras of the “central, eastern and southern provinces.” Said to be a primary source of essential oil of thyme. Zones 6-10.

    Syn. T. sabulicola; T. sylvestris Hoffsgg. & Link. Known to the Greek writer Theophrastus as Serpyllum zygis. Called Joch-Thymian or Spanischer Thymian (Spanish Thyme) in German; ouregao de mato (Wood Marjoram) in Portuguese; tomillo albar o salsero (Sauce Thyme) in Spanish; senorida de flor blanca in the Balearic Islands.

    FALSE THYMES

    Some plants called thyme as not. Basil thyme (Acinos arvensis), also called mother of thyme, is a faintly aromatic annual or short-lived perennial with rounded, furry, toothed leaves and violet lowers marked white on their lower lips, appearing summer to fall. It is native to Eurasia, the Mediterranean, and Northern Europe. Cat thyme (Teucrium marum) is a 20″ tall shrub native to the islands of the Western Mediterranean. Its woolly, upright stems bear rounded, hairy, sometimes toothed leaves and dense whorls of purple, furry flowers in summer. Winter savory (Satureja montana) once held the common name “white thyme.”

    SOURCES FOR THIS ARTICLE

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    • Thymus vulgaris cultivars,” Plant Heritage, Vol. 9, No 1; Spring 2002 issue.
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