Ocimum basilicum L.

Common Basil

Aromatic annual or short-lived perennial herb to 50 cm or so but mostly less, woody at the base. Leaves ovate to elliptic, to 5 cm long, 4 cm wide, tip pointed, margin entire or saw-toothed; stalk to about 3 cm long. Flower cluster whorls spaced along the stem, sometimes with persistent bracts, calyx hanging down. Corolla with a straight tube, white, pink or yellow; summer. Fruit nutlets black, sticky when wet. [O. citriodorum Vig.]

Tropical Asia

Naturalised in WA and Qld.

An important culinary herb, the major essential oil of which is thymol of which about 100 tonnes are produced annually. Leaves are used to flavour salads (grows and mixes well with tomatoes), pizza, stews and casseroles, sauces, liqueurs and so on.

The taxonomy of this species, its cultivars and botanical varieties is complex, with much intergrading, polyploidy and crossing of taxa. Variants are sometimes given botanical status as varieties and sometimes treated as cultivars. Both arrangements are presented here with the botanical taxa noted below and cultivars listed under the Cultivar tab.

O. ×citriodorum Vis. Leaves lemon-scented. [O.'Citriodorum']

var. difforme Benth. Leaves cut, curled and blistered. [O. basilicum var. crispum (Thunb.) E.A. Camus, O. 'Crispum']

var. minimum, Bush Basil (Greek Basil). A small bush with tiny ovate leaves less than 1 cm long. [O. minimum L., 'Minimum']

var. purpurascens Benth. Bracts, calyces and corolla purple or pinkish. [O. 'Purpurascens']

Source: Spencer, R.; Holmes, R.; McNaughton, V. (2002). Lavandula. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 4. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 3. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

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Distribution map

Ocimum basilicum 'Crispum'

Leaf margins curled.

Ocimum basilicum 'Dark Opal'

Leaves reddish purple and aniseed-scented.

Ocimum basilicum 'Green Ruffles'

Leaves green with curled edges.

Ocimum basilicum 'Minimum'

Leaves exceptionally small.

Ocimum basilicum 'Purple Ruffles'

Leaves purple with curled edges.

Ocimum basilicum 'Purpurascens'

Benth. Bracts, calyces and corolla purple or pinkish.

Ocimum basilicum 'Spicy Globe'

Compact habit with small leaves and white flowers.

O. 'Cinnamon' and O. 'Green Bouquet' are also listed.

kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Asteranae
order      Lamiales
family       Lamiaceae
genus        Ocimum L.