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Origanum

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Amaracus
  • Dictamnus
  • Majorana
  • Oroga
  • Zatarendia
Description

Origanum, or oregano, is a genus of subshrubs and herbaceous perennials in the Lamiaceae or mint family that are grown primarily as ornamentals or culinary herbs. This genus has 45 species, 6 subspecies, and 3 varieties. Oregano may grow in bushy mounds, prostrate, or erect. The plants may measure 6 inches to 3 feet in height and 1 to 2 feet in width. The leaves are aromatic, small oval to round, and either smooth or hairy. The blooms may be white, pink, or purple and appear in small 1-inch spikes, panicles, or corymb. The fruit is small, ovoid, brown nutlet. The different species can vary in flavor, aroma, size, and color.

Oregano is native to Europe, Central Asia, the Mediterranean, and North Africa. It was introduced to the United States after World War II. Soldiers upon their return home to the United States reported how much they enjoyed the taste of oregano on pizza while in Italy. The demand for oregano has grown significantly.  

The genus name, Origanum, is derived from the Greek words, oros meaning "mountain" and gamos meaning "beauty." The plant is referred to as the "beauty of the mountain" because of its physical appearance and native habitats. Typically, the common name of most of the species or varieties describes that particular plant's flavor.

The oregano prefers full sun and needs well-drained to dry soil that is neutral or alkaline in pH. They are intolerant to acidic soils, poorly drained soils, and hot humid conditions. Oregano is drought, deer, poor soil, and erosion tolerant. They may be propagated by seeds, cuttings, or division. Bees and butterflies are attracted to their blooms.

There are many different types of oregano with different flavor profiles. Culinary uses of oregano include flavoring tomato sauces, egg dishes, soups, stews, dips, vinegar, vegetable dishes, and pizza. Medicinally, oregano has been used as an antiseptic and expectorant. As aromatherapy, it has been used to relieve respiratory congestion.

Plants from the genus Oregano may be used in herb gardens, cottage gardens, and rock gardens. They may serve as a groundcover, borders, or container plant.

Some of the species include:

  • Origanum dictamnus (Dittany of Crete):  dwarf, evergreen, gray-white leaves, tiny pink flowers, ornamental
  • Origanum laevigatum:  perennial, ornamental, purple-pink flowers, ornamental
  • Origanum majorana (Sweet marjoram):  perennial evergreen subshrub with tiny pink or white flowers, culinary herb
  • Origanum x majoricum (Italian Oregano):  perennial with white flowers, culinary herb 
  • Origanum vulgare (Oregano or Wild Marjoram):  perennial with purplish-pink flowers, culinary herb

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom: Summer      Foliage: Spring, Summer, and Fall or Year-round if an evergreen subshrub

Quick ID Hints:

  • stems may woody or non-woody
  • leaves are rounded, cordate, or oval, opposite, hairy or non-hairy, entire or dentate margins, up to 1.5 inches long
  • the color of the leaves is dependent on the species or cultivar--green, gray, or yellow
  • blooms may be white, pink, or purple depending on the variety or cultivar, usually 5-lobed, maybe in panicles, spikes, or corymb
  • fruit is an ovoid, brown nutlet

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Oregano usually has no serious insect or disease problems. Aphids, leaf miners, and spider mites may be found.  In wet or poorly drained soils, root rot or stem rot may occur. Monitor for fungal diseases and protect the plant from excessive winter moisture.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

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Tags:
#fragrant#drought tolerant#culinary#well-drained soil#deer resistant#herbaceous perennials#border planting#alkaline soils tolerant#pollinator plant#subshrub#dry soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#bee friendly#erosion tolerant#humidity intolerant#container plant#wet soils intolerant#perennial#herb#full sun#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#fragrant#drought tolerant#culinary#well-drained soil#deer resistant#herbaceous perennials#border planting#alkaline soils tolerant#pollinator plant#subshrub#dry soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#bee friendly#erosion tolerant#humidity intolerant#container plant#wet soils intolerant#perennial#herb#full sun#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Origanum
    Family:
    Lamiaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Oregano is used as a culinary and medicinal herb.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Macaronesia, Europe, Mediterranean to Central China
    Distribution:
    Native: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Austria, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Central European Russia, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East European Russia, East Himalaya, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Lebanon-Syria, Libya, Morocco, Nepal Netherlands, North European Russia, Northwest European Russia, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Sicily, South European Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tibet, Turkey, Ukraine, West Himalaya, West Siberia, Xinjiang, and Yugoslavia. Introduced: Canada--British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, And Quebec; Mexico Southwest; New Zealand, and the United States--AR, CA, CT, DE, IL, MD, MA, MI, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OR, PA, VT, VA, and WA.
    Wildlife Value:
    Bees and butterflies are attracted to the flowers.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Easy to Grow
    Fragrance
    Edibility:
    Different varieties and species of oregano are used to flavor many dishes, including tomato sauces, eggs, soups, stews, vegetables, dips, vinegar, and pizza.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 6 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Shrub
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Mounding
    Prostrate
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9a, 9b, 10b, 10a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a small brown, slightly ribbed, ovoid, and smooth nutlet.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Corymb
    Panicle
    Spike
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are usually five-lobed and may be white, pink, or purple. The flower may vary in form from corymbose, paniculate, or elongated spikes.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Velvety
    Waxy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fragrant
    Good Dried
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are small, ovate, oblong-ovate, or heart-shaped, and they may be hairy or smooth. The color of the leaves depends on the species or cultivar. The leaves may be green, gray, or yellow. The margins may be entire or toothed. The texture of the leaves may be shiny, waxy, or fuzzy. The leaves contain oils that contribute to their flavor.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The stems may be woody or non-woody.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Naturalized Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Cutting Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Edible Garden
    Garden for the Blind
    Pollinator Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Erosion