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Lavandula dentata L. 1753
pronounced: lav-AN-dew-lah den-TA-tuh
(Lamiaceae – the mint family)
Common names: French Lavender, Toothed Lavender
The derivation of Lavandula, and also of Lavender, is highly debatable, and quite fascinating. Many authorities state that both words come from the Latin lavo, to wash; the word sounds and looks very similar to the Italian lavanda, a washing, and, indeed, there is evidence from the Middle Ages of a washerwoman in England named ‘Lavender’; but it seems more likely that Lavandula comes from the Middle English lavendre, through the mediaeval Latin lavendula, also spelt livendula and livendola, which probably came from the older Latin lividus, bluish, livid. It seems quite possible that the word reached the English language by two entirely different routes.
The plant originates in the Mediterranean region, the Atlantic Islands, and the Arabian peninsula. Its native habitat includes low hills with limestone substrates, growing amidst other shrubs. It differs from English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) mainly in the toothed margins of its leaves. It is an evergreen perennial, densely mounding (except when in flower) to about 40 cm high with a greater spread. It is quite drought-tolerant, and prefers dry growing conditions, in partial to full sun. It likes well-drained neutral to alkaline soil.
The leaves are opposite, strongly dentate to pinnatifid, sweetly aromatic, lanceolate to linear-oblanceolate in shape, up to 6 cm long by 6 mm wide. They are tomentose, nearly white when immature to grey-green at maturity and are medium-fine in texture.
The long-lasting flowers are produced on multiple unbranched spikes about 9 cm long, whorled about the spike, with 6 – 10 flowers per spike. The calyx is about 6 mm long, the densely pubescent corolla twice as long as the calyx. The are usually a violet-blue, but this depends on the cultivar.
The fruit is a small inconspicuous nutlet.
This is commonly grown as an ornamental, and its essential oils are used in perfumes. Its scent is more delicate than that of the English Lavender. During its first year of growth in the garden, the plants should be regularly pinched at the tips of the stems to encourage good branching. When grown in a greenhouse, or in areas that get no frost, the plant will bloom all the year round. The blooms work well as both cut and dried flowers, and are also used in pot-pourri. When used for cut flowers, the blooms should be harvested just as they start to open; but when used for dried flowers, they should be cut when they are fully open. In colder climates it can be grown as a container plant, so that it can be sheltered in the winter. If grown as a house plant, the plant should be placed in a bright window, and rotated every couple of weeks so that flowering will be uniform right round the plant. Wherever the plant is grown, it is best to remove old flowers, so that the plant will put its energy into growth and flowers, rather than into producing seeds. Propagation is by seed or by soft wood cuttings.
In the garden, the plant attracts bees and butterflies, and larvæ of William Kershaw's Painted Lady Vanessa kershawi have been found on it.
In Murcia the plant is used as a remedy for stomach ache.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2015
Page last updated 13th January 2016