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An evergreen shrub, much branched, 6 to 12 in. high, with a woody base and slender, semi-herbaceous, greyish, downy young shoots. Leaves stalkless, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long, 1⁄16 to 1⁄8 in. wide, linear to ovate, toothless, grey downy, dotted with numerous oil-glands; margins recurved. Flowers lilac-coloured or pale purple, opening from May to July in axillary whorls, the whole forming a terminal spike 1 to 2 in. long and 1⁄2 in. wide; bracts no wider than the leaves. Corolla about 1⁄4 in. long; calyx hairy, about as long as the corolla-tube, cylindric, with three very short triangular teeth and two longer, awl-shaped ones.
Native of S. Europe from Portugal to Greece, especially in the Mediterranean region; also of Corsica and the Balearic Isles. It has been grown in Britain from ancient times chiefly as a flavouring herb and for its pleasant aromatic odour. Oil of thyme, produced from the plant by distillation, chiefly in the south of France, is used for scenting soaps and as a local external stimulant. According to Gerard, the herbalist, thyme taken internally has many virtues, some curiously diverse, such as being ‘good against winde in the belly’ and ‘profitable for such as are fearfull melancholicke and troubled in minde.’ It is scarcely employed at all in English medicine to-day.
T. serpyllum var. citriodorum Pers.
T. serpyllum var. citratus West. Lemon Thyme