Lavandula angustifolia Mill

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Credits

Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Lavandula angustifolia' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/lavandula/lavandula-angustifolia/). Accessed 2020-01-19.

Genus

Common Names

  • Common Lavender

Synonyms

  • L. spica L., in part
  • L. officinalis Chaix
  • L. vera DC. (but not of gardens)
  • L. spica var. angustifolia L. f.

Glossary

calyx
(pl. calyces) Outer whorl of the perianth. Composed of several sepals.
corolla
The inner whorl of the perianth. Composed of free or united petals often showy.
acuminate
Narrowing gradually to a point.
apex
(pl. apices) Tip. apical At the apex.
axillary
Situated in an axil.
calyx
(pl. calyces) Outer whorl of the perianth. Composed of several sepals.
corolla
The inner whorl of the perianth. Composed of free or united petals often showy.
inflorescence
Flower-bearing part of a plant; arrangement of flowers on the floral axis.
linear
Strap-shaped.
oblanceolate
Inversely lanceolate; broadest towards apex.
oblate
Almost globose but flattened at apices; subglobose.
ovate
Egg-shaped; broadest towards the stem.
revolute
Rolled downwards at margin.
sessile
Lacking a stem or stalk.
spike
Inflorescence in which flowers sessile on the main axis.
tomentum
Dense layer of soft hairs. tomentose With tomentum.
whorl
Arrangement of three or more organs (leaves flowers) around a central axis. whorled Arranged in a whorl.

References

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Credits

Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Lavandula angustifolia' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/lavandula/lavandula-angustifolia/). Accessed 2020-01-19.

A sub-shrub with a well-developed woody base, growing to a height of about 2 ft, occasionally more. Leaves of two kinds: the principal leaves linear, narrow-elliptic or narrow-oblanceolate, not much broader at the apex than at the middle, mostly 1 to 134 in. long, occasionally longer, up to 316 in. wide, slightly revolute or plane, greyish at first, later more or less green; leaves on the axillary shoots narrower than the primary leaves, more revolute and more persistently grey above. Inflorescences spike-like, terminal on slender four-angled stems. Flowers almost sessile, produced in whorls, each of which consists of a pair of opposite, much condensed cymes; the whorls may be densely arranged or, especially towards the base of the spike, more or less widely spaced, the lowermost whorl usually at some distance from the others. Bracts papery, brown, prominently veined, ovate to broadly oblate-ovate or obovate in outline, acuminate at the apex; bracteoles small, brownish, sometimes absent. Calyx about 316 in. long, with thirteen longitudinal ribs, tinged with purple and usually densely coated with a woolly tomentum. Corolla lavender-purple, the upper lip two-lobed, the lower with three narrower lobes; exposed part of corolla-tube slightly shorter than the calyx.

A native of the west Mediterranean region, but extending some way inland, and up to 6,000 ft altitude; naturalised in parts of central Europe, especially in the wine-growing areas. It is said to have been cultivated in Britain since the early 16th century, but in all probability the Benedectine monks brought it here much earlier, perhaps even before the Conquest. L. angustifolia is the source of the true oil of lavender, which was once esteemed as a medicine for innumerable ills and also, according to Sir James Smith, for making a spiritous tincture which was ‘a popular cordial, very commodious for those who wish to indulge in a dram, under the appearance of an elegant medicine’. In France, which is the main home of the true lavender, the oil was once produced from portable stills which were carried to the wild stands at flowering time. At the present day, much of the annual production comes from artificial ‘lavanderaies’, in which the true lavender has been partly replaced by more productive plants which are known as ‘lavandin’ and are considered to be hybrids between the true lavender and the spike lavender (L. latifolia). See further under Garden Lavenders below.

The common lavender varies somewhat in the wild. Some plants are dwarf, with flowering stems 8 to 14 in. long and linear, revolute leaves. At the other extreme is the Dauphiné lavender, which is robust, with flowering stems up to 20 in. long and leaves not or only slightly revolute. This is said to inhabit valleys and to be less fragrant than the dwarfer kind. But these variations may be, at least in part, the result of differences in environment. More distinct is:

subsp. pyrenaica (DC.) Guinea L. pyrenaica DC. – Bracts of inflorescence very large, as long as the calyx and wider than long. Hairs of calyx mostly confined to the ribs. Pyrenees.


'Alba'

Flowering stems about 21 in. long. Spikes 2 to 3 in. long, with one or two distant whorls; secondary spikes well developed. Bracts of main part of spike more or less as in L. angustifolia but those subtending the lowermost whorl broadly awl-shaped and greenish, in this respect inclining to those of L. latifolia. Calyx grey-green, fairly woolly. Corolla pinkish white. The basal leaves, although tapered to the apex (not spathulate), are much broader than in L. angustifolia. Late July.

'Folgate'

Flowering stems about 12 in. long. Spikes rather open, 3 to 4 in. long (excluding lowermost whorl). Bracts broad-ovate; bracteoles not conspicuous. Calyx woolly but not densely so, bluish purple. Corolla purple. A vigorous medium-sized lavender of dense habit, very free-flowering. July, A.M. 1963.

Garden Lavenders

In her monograph on Lavandula, referred to in the introductory note, Miss Chaytor stated that most plants grown in gardens under the names L. spica and L. latifolia are really hybrids between the true lavender (L. angustifolia) and the spike lavender (L. latifolia). She deferred consideration of these plants, and her intended study of them was never published. It would be beyond the scope of a general work such as this to attempt such a study, but it would seem to be the case that most commercial varieties show hybrid characters in some degree. The main exceptions are the early-flowering dwarf sorts such as ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’, which show no obvious signs of hybridity. At the other extreme are the robust, late-flowering varieties, some of which are known as “Dutch” lavenders or, quite wrongly, as “L. vera”. The fact that these varieties flower late (some not starting until the end of July) is itself a probable sign of hybridity, since the spike lavender is decidedly later-flowering in the wild than L. angustifolia (see L. latifolia). Hybrid characters shown by these plants are elongated bracts, prominent bracteoles, branched inflorescences, sparsely hairy calyces, spatulate, often silvery leaves, and in some cases a camphorous element in the fragrance of the crushed calyx. But a single variety may show only one or two of these characters and in other respects agree with L. angustifolia, which seems to be the dominant element in most of these putative hybrids.So far as garden nomenclature is concerned the problem discussed in the preceding paragraph is perhaps of no great importance, since the majority of the commercial varieties have clonal names, which can with perfect correctness be placed immediately after the generic name Lavandula, without the intervention of any specific name. For reasons explained under L. spica, that name cannot be used for any species, and still less for any hybrid, while L. vera is simply a superfluous name for L. angustifolia (though the Dutch lavenders, for which it has been misused, are farther removed from that species, and nearer to L. latifolia, than any of the other garden varieties). The following is only a selection of the named varieties, though it includes those most widely available in commerce. They need an open, sunny position and a light, not too rich soil. It is advisable to trim off the flowering stems in late summer and to clip the plants more closely in spring, before growth commences. Propagation is by cuttings, inserted in August or September under a cloche or in a cold frame.

'Grappenhall'

A vigorous lavender with obvious hybrid characters. Woody base short in proportion to the length of the flowering stems, which are up to 2{1/2} ft long and mostly branched. Spikes rather open, with a very distant whorl at the base. Bracts narrow, with long slender tips; bracteoles well developed, some about as long as the calyx, which is pale bluish purple, thinly woolly. Corolla lavender-purple. Late July. The same or some similar variety has been known by the name ‘Gigantea’.

'Hidcote'

Flowering stems 10 to 15 in. long. Spikes very dense at the apex, with one or two distant whorls at the base. Bracts broad, short-pointed; bracteoles very small. Calyx rich purple, densely woolly, the hairs almost concealing the ribbing. Corollas purple. A very fine lavender of silvery appearance which first came to notice at Hidcote Manor, Glos. Its history is not known, but Major Johnston, who made the garden, may have brought it from France. It seems to be a form of L. angustifolia, not a hybrid and, unlike many garden lavenders, produces a good crop of seeds. It has been stated that ‘Hidcote’ is the same as the older ‘Nana Atropurpurea’, but a plant at Wisley under the latter name is not the same, though superficially similar. Its calyx is paler and less woolly. Both flower late June-July. A.M. 1950, FCC. 1963.

'Hidcote Giant'

A rather coarse but very fragrant lavender with flowering stems about 2 ft long, some of them branched. Spikes dense, 2 to 3 in. long, with mostly one distant whorl. Calyx bluish purple at the apex, woolly. Flowers lavender-purple, very numerous in each cyme. Bracts ovate, long-pointed; bracteoles well developed. July. This bears a strong resemblance to the lavender from Mitcham mentioned below.

'Hidcote Pink'

Similar to ‘Hidcote’, but with a pinkish-white corolla and a greenish calyx.

'Munstead'

Flowering stems about 12 in. long. Spikes short, rather open, with one or two lower, distant whorls. Bracts broad-ovate, fairly long-pointed; bracteoles present. Calyx purplish, paler at the base, thinly woolly. Corolla bluish purple. Late June-early July. A.M. 1955.

'Nana Alba'

A dwarf with flowering stems 3 to 4 in. long. Spikes dense at the apex, with one or two lower, distant whorls. Bracts broad, short-pointed; bracteoles small. Calyx pale green, fairly densely coated with straight hairs.

'Twickel Purple'

Flowering stems about 15 in. or slightly more long, rather spreading. Spikes open, about 4 in. long (excluding the basal whorl). Calyx woolly, purple almost to the base. Corolla purple. July. A.M. 1961.Of the so called Dutch lavenders (L. vera Hort., not DC.) there are a number of clones, flowering late in the season (from the end of July), with spatulate basal leaves, very silvery in one commercial variety. The origin of the common name is not known for certain, but it was probably used by the producers of lavender oil for varieties which they judged inferior either because they yielded low-quality oil or because they were slow to flower. There are many examples in the English language of ‘dutch’ being used in a derogatory sense.Lavender was once grown extensively at Mitcham in Surrey, but it is impossible to say whether there is a single variety entitled to be called the Mitcham lavender. Mr H. P. Boddington, Director of Parks at Merton, kindly sent a specimen from an old plant 5 ft high and as much across, found growing on an allotment where the lavender fields were once situated. This plant is very fragrant and bears very dense spikes with numerously-flowered cymes – an important attibute in an oil-producing variety, since the essence is mainly contained in the calyces.

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