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Hyssop    

(identified, possibly mistakenly, with a plant described by Dioscorides.) Labiatae. Some ten species of aromatic perennial herbs or dwarf shrubs. Leaves opposite with pairs alternate, linear-lanceolate. Inflorescence a sparsely flowered, secund spike; calyx tubular, 15-veined, teeth 5, equal; corolla bilabiate, upper lip erect, not hooded, lower lip 3-lobed with middle lobe largest and notched. Fruit a nutlet. S Europe to C Asia.

Cultivation   

Grow individually in borders and pots or use Hyssopus officinalis as a low hedge (spacing 22-30cm). Plant in autumn or spring in light, well-drained soils in sunny sites. Pinch to give bushy plants. Propagate from seed or by 5-7cm softwood cuttings in spring or early summer. Herb Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) was once valued as an aromatic strewing herb, and was used medicinally in the treatment of asthma and bronchitis. A herb tea made from fresh, young growth has long been used in folk medicine in the treatment of rheumatism. The essential oil is antiseptic, and is greatly valued in perfumery. The chopped leaves have a strong, peppery flavour.

Hyssopus officinalis   

HYSSOP. Perennial. Stems numerous, normally erect to 60cm. Leaves to 5 x 1cm, aromatic, mid-green, linear-lanceolate, margins slightly revolute, entire, glabrous, sessile. Inflorescence a thin spike; bracts linear; calyx glabrous or puberulent; corolla to 12mm, violet or blue, occasionally white. Late summer. S and E Europe, widely naturalised Europe and US. A highly variable species including white-flowered and pink-flowered forms. subspecies aristatus. Bracts awned. France, Spain, Balkans. ‘Albus’: flowers white. ‘Grandiflora’: flowers large. ‘Purpurascens’ (‘Rubra’): flowers deep red. ‘Roseus’: flowers pink. ‘Sissinghurst’: habit dwarf and compact. Z3.

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