Origanum vulgare L.


Woody perennial with erect or ascending stems to 1m tall, red-brown, hairy or not. Leaves to 4 cm long, more or less stalkless to stalked, ovate, usually pointed, margins entire or with small saw teeth, hairless or hairy, glands almost invisible to conspicuous. Flower spikes loose to dense; bracts ovate or obovate, acute, less than 8 mm long. Calyx equally 5-lobed. Corolla 3-11mm long, 2-lipped for about a third of its length, white or pink, lower lip unequally 3-lobed. Stamens about 5 mm long, slightly protruding.

Azores to Taiwan, Europe, Asia, N Africa

An extremely variable species divided into a number of geographical subspecies with overlapping characters.There are 2 subspecies commonly found in cultivation in Australia.

subsp. hirtum, Greek Oregano, from the E Mediterranean is a perennial with erect or ascending leaves conspicuously hairy and gland-dotted; flower clusters paniculate, spikes short; bracts hairy; calyx gland-dotted, green, corolla white. [O. heracleoticum author not L.] Dried bunches of flowering stems of this subspecies are on sale in delicatessens as Rigani Matso. Dried Oregano flakes consist of leaf fragments, bracts and flowers of this subspecies and may sometimes contain material from other genera. However, the name Oregano is not restricted to this subspecies.

subsp. virens from SW Europe has inconspicuously dotted leaves, glabrous yellowgreen bracts and white flowers and is sometimes available. Some of the presumed hybrids with O. laevigatum may be selections of subsp. gracile from Turkey, Iran and Kazakhstan; subsp. viride from the Mediterranean to E China has small hairy bracts and white flowers.

subsp. vulgare, Wild Marjoram, Pot Marjoram, from England to Taiwan in the northern part of the species distribution. A perennial with erect, ascending or creeping stems; leaves and calyces usually inconspicuously gland-dotted; flowers in more or less corymbose to paniculate clusters; bracts purple, calyx often purple, corolla pink.

The cultivars listed under the Cultivar tab will probably key out to O. vulgare. They may be hybrids between this species and O. laevigatum or selections of the latter species, under which they are commonly listed.

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.

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Distribution map

Origanum vulgare 'Aureum Crispum'

Leaves yellowish and crisped.

Leaves may remain green, in which case the cultivar is known as O. 'Crispum'.

Origanum vulgare 'Aureum'

Young shoots in full sun develop yellow or bleached white leaves; older growth is greener; shade growth is lime green.

A vigorous form of subsp. vulgare with pink flowers.

Origanum vulgare 'Country Cream'

Has petiolate, variegated leaves - a typical periclinal chimaera with creamy marginal zone, dark green centre and small grey-green intermediate zone. At first a compact, small-leaved plant. [O.'County Cream']

Introduced in Australia from England in 1996.

Origanum vulgare 'Herrenhausen'

Stems red, with short reflexed hairs. Leaves 4.5 cm long, ovate, ciliate. Spikes loose. Bracts 3-4 mm long, ovate, purple; corolla tube 5 mm long, lower lip 3-lobed, 3 mm long; upper lip shortly 2-lobed. Stamens just included in corolla tube, filaments to 5 mm long.

Close to O. laevigatum but lips of corolla more like O. vulgare.

Origanum vulgare 'Hopleys'

Stems to 70 cm, hairless. Leaves to 3 cm long; young leaves purple beneath; spikes 2 cm, bracts 5-6 mm, lanceolate, overlapping, green, tinged purple. Corolla purple, tube 6 mm, lower lip about 3 mm long. Stamens just protruding. Spikes more compact than other cultivars in this group.

Probably a selection of O. vulgare subsp. gracile [O. tytthanthum] or a hybrid with O. laevigatum.

Introduced by David Hopley of Hopley's Nursery, UK, c. 1980.

Origanum vulgare 'Nymphenberg'

Stems erect to 70 cm tall, reddish brown, with short deflexed hairs. Leaves ovate, shortly stalked, green, hairless. Bracts purple; calyx to 3 mm long, green, very slightly 2-lipped, with 5 similar 1 mm lobes. Corolla 6-7 mm long, rose-purple. Stamens included, all with 0.5 mm-long filaments.

Origanum vulgare 'Rosenkuppel'

Perennial with erect stems. Leaves 2.5 cm long, ovate, with fine saw teeth, dark green, almost hairless, gland-dotted. Flower clusters dense, spikes 10 mm long, bracts obovate, 7 mm long, purple, almost hairless. Calyx equally 5- lobed, purple. Corolla 10 mm long, upper lip notched, deep purple. Stamens with 5 mm protruding and 3 mm under upper lip.

Though possibly a hybrid, this seems to be just a selection of subsp. vulgare.

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