Origanum majorana L.

Sweet Marjoram

Subshrub or perennial or annual herb to 50 cm tall in cultivation; stems erect or ascending. Leaves to 2 cm long, usually much less, ovate to oblong, blunt, stalked, grey-green, velvety, with a dense covering of 0.3 mm-long hairs. Flower clusters in panicles, but not widely spreading. Spikes developing in upper leaf axils as spherical 'knots', later elongating to form cylindrical spikes to 15 mm long. Bracts to 3 mm long, round, closely overlapping, shortly hairy. Calyx 1-lipped, bract-like so that the corolla is enclosed as between the two valves of a clam shell. Corolla 5 mm long (only 3.5 mm in female flowers) white, upper lip entire, lower lip 3-lobed; stamens protruding (female flowers have non-functional stamens with very short filaments); late summer.

Greece, Greek Islands, Turkey, Sicily

Supermarket bottles of Marjoram flakes will probably consist of the leaf fragments, bracts and flowers of O. majorana.

Velvety grey-green leaves; knot-like developing inflorescences; dense flower spikes with closely overlapping circular bracts; small white flowers; calyx 1-lipped.


O. onites, Pot Marjoram, is a species with similar flowers but is probably not in cultivation in Australia. This distinctive plant from the E Mediterranean has a 1-lipped calyx, stems with both long and short hairs, slightly toothed, hairy, glandular, ovate leaves with acute tips, ovate bracts, and a corymbose inflorescence. Plants offered as O. onites may be O. vulgare subsp. vulgare (which is also known as Pot Marjoram), O. vulgare subsp. hirtum or O. majorana × O. vulgare.

Source: Lumley, P. (2002). Origanum. 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.

Distribution map
kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Asteranae
order      Lamiales
family       Lamiaceae
genus        Origanum L.