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An evergreen, semi-shrubby plant, herbaceous at the top, woody at the base, with a creeping root-stock and ascending, very downy branches, 8 to 12 in. high. Leaves opposite, mainly ovate, but conspicuously toothed or almost lobed, tapering at the base to a winged stalk, 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. long, almost half as much wide, bright green above, hairy on both sides. Flowers arranged on a terminal raceme 2 to 5 in. long, two or three together in the axils of the leaves or bracts. Corolla rose-coloured, 1⁄2 to 5⁄8 in. long, two-lipped, the lower lip veined with darker rose. Calyx 1⁄4 in. long, tubular, with five sharp lobes, hairy and, like the floral bracts, purplish.
Native of much of Europe (though not of Britain nor of Scandinavia), N. Africa and parts of S.W. Asia; recorded in Britain from the 17th century onwards as an escape growing on the walls of gardens, ruins, etc. It is very hardy and easily grown, flowering from July to September (earlier in warm gardens). At one time it was considered to be a valuable specific for gout and was an important ingredient in the popular medicine known as ‘Portland powder’, a name it acquired through its having (reputedly) cured an 18th-century Duke of Portland of that complaint. Even higher up the social scale, the gout of the Emperor Charles V was cured ‘by a vinous decoction of it, with some other herbs, taken for sixty successive days’ (Martyn, in his edition of Miller’s Dictionary).
The specific epithet is taken from the old Greek name, meaning dwarf oak – whence Quercula minor, as it was called by some of the herbalists. The English name germander is a corruption of chamaedrys, through the French ‘germandrée’.
T. marum L. Cat Thyme. – A small subshrub with woolly stems, usually entire linear-lanceolate or rhombic leaves to about 3⁄8 in. long, hairy beneath, and purple flowers in dense racemose clusters. Native mainly of the islands of the western Mediterranean, once common in gardens. It is as attractive to cats as nepeta and is sometimes grown as a room plant on the continent, for its aromatic foliage. T. subspinosum Willd. is closely related to this, differing chiefly in having the lateral branches converted into spines. Native of Mallorca.