Skip to main content

This small white- or purple-flowered perennial is commonly called oregano. It is a widely used herb in Greek and Italian cuisine and is often used in tomato dishes, salads and with grilled meats. Together with basil (Ocimum basilicum), it is one of the main flavouring ingredients of Italian food.

Origanum vulgare (oregano)

[UPB]

The Useful Plants of Boyacá project

Ecology
Alt. 1500 - 2800 m.
Distribution
Cultivated in Colombia.
Morphology General Habit
Herb.
Conservation
Not Evaluated.

[CPLC]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 1500 - 2800 m.; Andes, Valle del Magdalena.
Morphology General Habit
Hierba

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
A very common herb, oregano is widely used to give flavour to tomato or lamb dishes.

This small white- or purple-flowered perennial is commonly called oregano. It is a widely used herb in Greek and Italian cuisine and is often used in tomato dishes, salads and with grilled meats. Together with basil (Ocimum basilicum), it is one of the main flavouring ingredients of Italian food.

Oregano is used in traditional medicine for treating colds, indigestion and stomach upsets. 

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Oregano is native to the Mediterranean, Europe (including the British Isles) and south and central Asia, and is cultivated elsewhere.

Description

Overview:  Origanum vulgare is an aromatic, woody-based perennial, which grows to 20-90 cm in height.

Leaves: Its leaves are ovate (egg-shaped, with the wider end at the base), 10-40 mm long and 5-25 mm wide, and borne opposite each other on the stem. The edges of the leaves are smooth or very shallowly toothed, and the leaf tips vary from acute (pointed) to obtuse (rounded).

Flowers: The inflorescence is many-flowered, with flowers grouped into short dense lateral or terminal spikes. The corolla (ring of united petals) is white to purplish, 4-8 mm long, and has two lips. The calyx (ring of united sepals) is five-toothed. Each flower has four stamens (male parts).

Fruits: Each fruit has four small nutlets (single-seeded units).

Threats and conservation

This species is not threatened. It is common within its native areas and also widely cultivated.

Uses

Oregano is an important herb in Greek and Italian cuisine, the dried form having more flavour than the fresh leaves. Perhaps the dish most widely associated with oregano is pizza. The flavour of oregano varies according to cultivar, environmental conditions (such as climate and soil type) and time of year.

The dried leaves and flower tops are sometimes used in potpourri. Potpourri mixtures are dried, decorative, usually naturally fragrant, plant materials used to provide gentle aromas in houses. At Kew, we identify dried plant ingredients of potpourri and provide conservation and toxicity reports for this specialist industry. Its oil is used in aromatherapy, in perfumes and toiletries, and in the food industry as a flavouring.

Origanum vulgare makes an attractive low-growing ground cover for herbaceous borders, rock gardens and scree beds. It also makes a useful addition to grassland managed for wildlife, as its flowers attract pollinating insects. A number of compact, variegated and golden-leaved cultivars are available.

Other species of Origanum also used as herbs include Origanum majorana (sweet marjoram), Origanum onites and Origanum syriacum (za'atar, the hyssop of the Bible).

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: Six

Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive drying without significant reduction in their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)

Germination testing: Successful

Composition values: Oil content 35%, Protein 26%

Cultivation

Origanum vulgare grows well in the sandy soil of the Mediterranean Garden at Kew. It thrives in full sun and is drought-tolerant. Seed can be sown in seed trays in an open sandy compost for propagation. Germination can be erratic. After pricking out, the seedlings can be planted out into their final positions when the roots have extended well into a 7.5 cm pot. Alternatively, plants can be divided, or softwood cuttings grown. At Kew, where a natural appearance is favoured, watering is minimal and plants are not fed, as this would cause unnaturally lush growth.

The aromatic quality of the species means that it tends not to suffer from pests. Frost damage can occur, but usually only the smaller plants succumb to it, with the larger plants recovering well.

Kew at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011

In 2011, Kew partnered with The Times to produce a show garden to showcase the significance of plants to science and society.

The garden, designed by Chelsea gold medallist Marcus Barnett, featured species chosen to demonstrate both beauty and utility, including medicinal, commercial, and industrial uses to underline the fact that plants are invaluable to our everyday lives - without them, none of us could live on this planet; they produce our food, clothing and the air that we breathe.

Origanum vulgare is the wild relative of the cultivar Origanum vulgare 'Thumble's Variety', which wass featured in Kew's garden at Chelsea. A cultivar is a cultivated variant of a species, which is often called a 'variety' in the horticultural trade. Cultivars usually have characteristics that make them more desirable to growers, for example a carrot that is sweeter than its wild relative or a rose with less thorns than its wild counterpart.

Distribution
United Kingdom
Ecology
Grassland or open scrub, often in rocky areas and on calcareous soils.
Conservation
Rated by IUCN as of Least Concern (LC).
Hazards

Its oil may cause skin irritation.

[UNAL]

Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia. http://www.biovirtual.unal.edu.co/nombrescomunes/

Vernacular
orégano

[FTEA]

Lamiaceae (Labiatae), A.J. Paton, G. Bramley, O. Ryding, R.M. Polhill, Y.B. Harvey, M. Iwarsson, F. Willis, P.B. Phillipson, K. Balkwill, C.W. Lukhoba, D.F. Otieno, & R.M. Harley. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 2009

Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Has a 5-lobed calyx and can hybridise with O majorana (O applii (Domin) Boros).

[UPB]
Use Medicines Unspecified Medicinal Disorders
Medicinal (State of the World's Plants 2016, Instituto Humboldt 2014).
Use Medicines Endocrine System Disorders
Leaves and flowers - Used in liquid medicines (Lagos-López 2007).
Use Medicines Inflammation
Leaves and flowers - Used in liquid medicines as an anti-inflammatory (Lagos-López 2007).
Use Medicines Injuries
Leaves and flowers - Used in liquid medicines (Lagos-López 2007).
Use Medicines Muscular-Skeletal System Disorders
Leaves and flowers - Used in liquid medicines (Lagos-López 2007).
Use Medicines Pain
Flowers - Used in liquid medicines to alleviate earache (Lagos-López 2007).

[KSP]
Use
An important herb in Greek and Italian cuisine, it is also used in traditional medicine, potpourri and as an ornamental.

Native to:

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Altay, Austria, Azores, Baleares, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Buryatiya, Canary Is., Central European Rus, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Corse, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East Aegean Is., East European Russia, East Himalaya, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Irkutsk, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Krasnoyarsk, Kriti, Krym, Madeira, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, North Caucasus, North European Russi, Northwest European R, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sardegna, Sicilia, South European Russi, Spain, Svalbard, Sweden, Switzerland, Tadzhikistan, Taiwan, Tibet, Transcaucasus, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkey-in-Europe, Turkmenistan, Tuva, Ukraine, West Himalaya, West Siberia, Xinjiang, Yakutskiya, Yugoslavia

Introduced into:

Arkansas, British Columbia, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mexico Southwest, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, New Zealand South, North Carolina, Nova Scotia, Ohio, Ontario, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Primorye, Prince Edward I., Québec, Venezuela, Vermont, Virginia, Washington

English
Oregano
Spanish
Orégano, orégano de España, mejorana silvestre.

Origanum vulgare L. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Jan 1, 2012 Ducloux [6433], China K000735949
Jan 1, 2011 Zanin [s.n.], Brazil K000735163
Day, C.D. [710], Turkey K000341632

First published in Sp. Pl.: 590 (1753)

Accepted by

  • Aver'ianov, L.V. & al. (2006). Illyustrirovannyi opredelitel' rastenii Leningradskoi oblasti: 1-799. Nauka, Moskva.
  • Balkrishna, A. (2018). Flora of Morni Hills (Research & Possibilities): 1-581. Divya Yoga Mandir Trust.
  • Castroviejo, S. & al. (eds.) (2010). Flora Iberica 12: 1-650. Real Jardín Botánico, CSIC, Madrid.
  • Garcia-Mendoza, A.J. & Meave, J.A. (eds.) (2012). Diversidad florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas (colecciones y listas de especies), ed. 2: 1-351. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Govaerts, R. (2003). World Checklist of Selected Plant Families Database in ACCESS: 1-216203. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Hokche, O., Berry, P.E. & Huber, O. (eds.) (2008). Nuevo Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela: 1-859. Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela.
  • Manikandan, R., Chandrasekar, K. & Srivastava, S.K. (2012). Life form analysis of the family Lamiaceae in Jammu & Kashmir, India Phytotaxonomy 12: 7-19.
  • Martínez-Gordillo, M. & al. (2019). Flora del Valle de Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Lamiaceae: 1-233. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Mohlenbrock, R.H. (2014). Vascular Flora of Illinois. A Field Guide, ed. 4: 1-536. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.
  • Van Heurck, H. & De Beucker, J.I. (1861). Antwerpsche Analytische Flora 1: 1-192. Drukkerij der weduwe Jos. Van Ishoven, Antwerpen.
  • Webb, C.J., Sykes, W.R & Garnock-Jones, P.J. (1988). Flora of New Zealand 4: 1-1365. R.E.Owen, Government Printer, Wellington.

Literature

Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

  • ColPlantA (2021). "ColPlantA. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://www.colplanta.org/"

Kew Species Profiles

  • Brown, D. (2008). The Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  • Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (eds) (1992). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening. Vol. 3 (L to Q): 401-402. Macmillan Press, London.
  • Ietswaart, J.H. (1980). A taxonomic revision of the genus Origanum (Labiatae). Leiden University Press, Leiden.

Useful Plants of Boyacá Project

  • Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humbodlt (2014). Plantas alimenticias y medicinales nativas de Colombia. 2567 registros, aportados por: Castellanos, C. (Contacto del recurso), Valderrama, N. (Creador del recurso, Autor), Castro, C. (Proveedor de metadatos), Bernal, Y. (Autor), García, N. (Autor). Versión 11.0. http://i2d.humboldt.org.co/ceiba/resource.do?r=ls_colombia_magnoliophyta_2014
  • Kew’s Economic Botany collection in The State of the World’s Plants Report–2016. (2016). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew https://stateoftheworldsplants.org/2016/
  • Lagos-López, M. (2007). Estudio etnobotánico de especies vegetales con propiedades medicinales en seis municipios de Boyacá, Colombia. Actualidades Biológicas, 29(86), 87-96.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Aver'ianov, L.V. & al. (2006). Illyustrirovannyi opredelitel' rastenii Leningradskoi oblasti: 1-799. Nauka, Moskva.
  • Balkrishna, A. (2018). Flora of Morni Hills (Research & Possibilities): 1-581. Divya Yoga Mandir Trust.
  • Charkevicz, S.S. (ed.) (1995). Plantae Vasculares Orientalis Extremi Sovietici 7: 1-394. Nauka, Leningrad.
  • Garcia-Mendoza, A.J. & Meave, J.A. (eds.) (2012). Diversidad florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas (colecciones y listas de especies), ed. 2: 1-351. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Hokche, O., Berry, P.E. & Huber, O. (eds.) (2008). Nuevo Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela: 1-859. Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela.
  • Malyschev, L.I. (ed.) (2006). Flora of Siberia 11: 1-310. Scientific Publishers, Inc., Enfield, Plymouth.
  • Manikandan, R., Chandrasekar, K. & Srivastava, S.K. (2012). Life form analysis of the family Lamiaceae in Jammu & Kashmir, India Phytotaxonomy 12: 7-19.
  • Mohlenbrock, R.H. (2014). Vascular Flora of Illinois. A Field Guide, ed. 4: 1-536. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.
  • Webb, C.J., Sykes, W.R & Garnock-Jones, P.J. (1988). Flora of New Zealand 4: 1-1365. R.E.Owen, Government Printer, Wellington.

Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • K.H.S., Gard. E. Afr.: 170 (1995)

Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Colombian resources for Plants made Accessible
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Science Photographs
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Universidad Nacional de Colombia
ColPlantA database
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Useful Plants of Boyacá Project
ColPlantA database
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/