Salvia rosmarinus: Rosemary

Family: Lamiaceae
Common name: Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis

Though Rosemary plants are native to the Mediterranean regions, they are now grown as garden herbs, and are used in cooking all over the world. The plants can grow to a height of 1-1.2 meters with a brown or white, woody stem and bluish-green needle-like leaves.

They are characterized by long, well-branched, bushy stems and small two-lipped flowers that could be purple, blue, pink, or white. The leaves have a strong, heady aroma and are used raw or dried in a variety of dishes like breads, pizza, pasta, biscuits, roast chicken, pork, turkey, salads, baked potatoes, mushrooms, and eggplant.

Rosemary tea is a refreshing drink that can be used as a substitute for regular tea. Leaves are slightly bitter and astringent, with a woody, mustard-like aftertaste.

Though they grow reasonably well in India, they are not proliferous germinators. Stem cuttings take time to root and grow, but Rosemary plants can live over 20 years under ideal circumstances. They usually flower in spring and summer but are capable of blooming almost throughout the year in warm climate.

These plants prefer good, direct, sunlight and well-drained soil. They are extremely drought-tolerant and can live without water for many days. Overwatering can lead to yellowing of leaves and subsequent root rot.

Rosemary plants are grown as ornamental plants, and also as hedge or border plants where they are pruned severely into desired shapes. Their low water requirement makes them ideal plants for xeriscaping or low-water agriculture.

Common cultivars are Albus with white-colored flowers, Aureus with speckled yellow leaves, Blue boy with small leaves, Golden rain which has green and yellow streaked leaves, Majorica pink with pink flowers, Irene which has long trailing branches and dark blue flowers, Subbury blue with beautiful blue flowers, Blue rain with pink flowers and many more. Few of these cultivars are very popular with gardeners and have won Horticultural awards.

Rosemary plants have many medicinal uses and help in improving digestion, memory, concentration, circulation, aging, and cancer. They are also said to be effective for headache, toothache, hypertension, arthritis, kidney ailments, cough, eczema, and a variety of other common illnesses.

Excessive consumption can cause side effects like vomiting, nausea, and spasms. Essential oils derived from rosemary are used in perfumes, shampoos, and other cosmetics.

Propagation is through stem cuttings. Seed propagation is also possible, but with very low germination rates.