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Caraway Thyme Thymus herba-barona

Previously known as:

  • Acinos herba-barona
  • Calamintha herba-barona
  • Origanum herba-barona
  • Thymus affinis
  • Thymus attenuatus
Phonetic Spelling
THY-mus ER-bah bah-ROH-nah
Description

Caraway Thyme is a low-growing, creeping, woody shrub that may be used as an ornamental groundcover or culinary herb. This evergreen grows from 3 to 6 inches tall and about 1 foot wide. The plant is a member of the Lamiaceae or Mint family. The leaves of the plant have the fragrance of caraway seeds. Some cultivars have the scent of nutmeg or lemon.

This perennial groundcover is native to Sardinia and Corsica. The leaves have essential oils that are harvested for use in foods, medicines, and perfumes.

The origin of the word "thyme" is from the Greek word thumos, which means "courage." In the past thyme, was thought to be an emblem of bravery. The word "thyme" may also have been derived from the Greek word thymos, meaning "perfume." The plants of this genus are typically aromatic. The species name, herba-barona, means "flavoring a baron of beef." The origin of the name reportedly comes from the English, who used this herb to flavor barons of beef. 

Caraway Thyme prefers full sun or well-drained, sandy, or rocky soils. Once established, it becomes drought tolerant. Pruning the stems should be done as needed to maintain appearance. The leaves should be harvested early or late summer before the flowers open and be dried quickly. It will remain evergreen through mild winters.

This groundcover or herb may be propagated by division, young shoot cuttings, or partially ripe wood cuttings. Propagation by seeds is challenging due to its erratic germination.

The woody stems form a prostrate mat. The leaves are tiny, pointed, glossy, and dark green. The flowers are clusters of tiny pink tubular blooms that appear in the summer.

The flowers of Caraway Thyme have rich nectar that attracts bees and butterflies. The plant is deer resistant and dry soils tolerant. This low-growing groundcover tolerates light foot traffic and adds interest between stepping stones or sprawled over rocks, ledges, or walls.  

Quick ID Hints:

  • Leaves tiny and dark green
  • The fragrance of caraway seeds
  • Tiny tubular pink flowers
  • Low-growing, prostrate groundcover

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:

This plant has no serious insect or disease problems. It may be susceptible to root rot if soils are wet or poorly drained.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Lemon Scented'
    Strong lemon scent
  • 'Nutmeg'
    Fast growing, fragrance similar to nutmeg
'Lemon Scented', 'Nutmeg'
Tags:
#cultivars#drought tolerant#fragrant leaves#cpp#well-drained soil#groundcover#stepping stones#sandy soils tolerant#rocky soils tolerant#garden walls#dry soils tolerant#foot traffic tolerant#butterfly friendly#pollinators#bee friendly#wet soils intolerant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Lemon Scented'
    Strong lemon scent
  • 'Nutmeg'
    Fast growing, fragrance similar to nutmeg
'Lemon Scented', 'Nutmeg'
Tags:
#cultivars#drought tolerant#fragrant leaves#cpp#well-drained soil#groundcover#stepping stones#sandy soils tolerant#rocky soils tolerant#garden walls#dry soils tolerant#foot traffic tolerant#butterfly friendly#pollinators#bee friendly#wet soils intolerant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Thymus
    Species:
    herba-barona
    Family:
    Lamiaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The leaves contain essential oils that are used in perfume and mouthwashes. It has also been used medicinally as an antiseptic.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Layering
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southern Europe at the Mediterranean in Sardinia and Corsica
    Distribution:
    Corsica and Sardinia
    Wildlife Value:
    The flowers have rich nectar that attracts honey bees and butterflies.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Fragrance
    Edibility:
    The leaves have a fragrance and flavor similar to caraway seeds. Dried leaves are used to flavor soups, vegetables, and meats. The English have used the herb to flavor "Barons of Beef."
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 3 in. - 0 ft. 6 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 9 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ground Cover
    Herb
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Creeping
    Prostrate
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Schizocarp
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruits of this genus are schizocarps.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    Tepals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are clusters of tiny tubular deep pink bloom that appear in June through July.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fragrant
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The stems are covered with tiny pointed gloss dark green leaves that measure up to1/4 inch long. The leaves have a strong fragrance of caraway seeds.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Yes
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The plant has numerous woody stems that form a creeping prostrate mat from 3 to 6 inches tall.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Patio
    Rock Wall
    Small Space
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Edible Garden
    Garden for the Blind
    Pollinator Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Dry Soil
    Poor Soil