Origanum majorana

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Wild Marjoram

Origanum vulgare

  • Family: Mint Family – Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock horizontal, slim. With runners in autumn.
  • Height: 20–60(–80) cm (8–25(–30) in.). Stem unbranched–upper part branching, ascending–erect, woody, 4-edged, usually reddish brown, hairy. With strong fragrance.
  • Flower: Corolla irregular (zygomorphic), usually light crimson, 4–7 mm (0.16–0.28 in.) long, fused, bilabiate, 5-lobed, long-tubed, hairy. Upper lip flat, short, with notched tips; lower lip 3-lobed, central lobe larger than lateral lobes, round-tipped, edge shallow-toothed. Calyx almost regular (actinomorphic), campanulate (bell-shaped), 5-lobed, 13-veined. Stamens 4, of which 2 long (longer than upper lip of corolla) and 2 short. Gynoecium composed of 2 fused carpels. Inflorescence composed of dense, corymbose, axillary whorls, terminating stem and branches.
  • Leaves: Opposite, short-stalked. Leaf blade ovate–almost elliptic, almost glabrous, with entire margins–shallow-toothed. Inflorescence’s subtending bracts small.
  • Fruit: 4-parted schizocarp. Mericarps almost round, yellowish brown.
  • Habitat: Meadows, rocky meadows, banks, forest margins, broad-leaved forests. Also cultivated as a kitchen herb. Calciphile.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Most Mint family plants have a strong fragrance and many are used in the kitchen. Wild marjoram is a relative of oregano, which is famous as an essential ingredient of pizza. The oregano that sits in the spice-rack is actually a combination of wild marjoram stems and its close relatives marjoram (sweet marjoram, knotted marjoram, O. majorana) and Cretan oregano (Turkish oregano, pot marjoram, rίgani, O. onites). Seasoning that is made solely from wild marjoram leaves is sharper and rougher than the oregano mixture. Nowadays oregano is mainly imported into Finland, but islanders in the south-western archipelago have been able to season their fish with wild marjoram before international trade began. Transplanting the species to herb gardens has undoubtedly expanded its habitat. Many special qualities have been attributed to wild marjoram throughout the ages and it was believed to have the power to repel evil spirits and demons.

Wild marjoram thrives on dry, sunny and preferably calciferous land. Like most other Mint family (Lamiaceae) plants, genus Origanum plants are easiest to tell apart by their inflorescence. The flowers that form little cymes are not in paired whorls around the stem but are rather an umbellate spike, forming a corymbose dense, compound cyme. Wild marjoram flowers from July–August, but it doesn’t release its seeds until winter. The woody stem sticks out above the snow, and the seeds can spread further that way.

Other species from the same family

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