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Origin and Habitat: Occurs naturally in East Africa from Kenya to Angola, in the west and, in the east, to Mozambique, and RSA (KwaZulu-Natal) and Swaziland. It is widely cultivated and naturalised elsewhere in the Old and New World tropics (e.g. India, Madagascar, Southeast Asia Central and South America).
Type locality: Moluccas, Amboina
Habitat: It grows at low altitudes in woodland or coastal bush, on rocky slopes and loamy or sandy flats.
Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour.) Spreng.
Syst. Veg. (ed. 16) [Sprengel] 2: 690 1825
- Plectranthus amboinicus (Lour.) Spreng.
- Coleus amboinicus var. violaceus Gürke
- Coleus aromaticus Benth.
- Coleus carnosus Hassk.
- Majana carnosa (Hassk.) Kuntze
- Coleus crassifolius Benth.
- Coleus subfrutectosus Summerh.
- Coleus suborbicularis Zoll. & Moritzi
- Coleus suganda Blanco
- Majana suganda (Blanco) Kuntze
- Coleus vaalae (Forssk.) Deflers
- Ocimum vaalae Forssk.
ENGLISH: Grenada & other English speaking Caribbean Islands), Three-in-one herb, Queen of herbs, Mexican thyme, Cuban oregano, Broad leaf thyme (Barbados), Country borage (India, South Africa), French thyme (South Africa), Indian borage (India), Indian mint (South Africa), Mexican mint (US), Soup mint (South Africa), Poor man pork (Barbados), Big thyme (St.Vincent, Allherb, Mother of herbs, Spanish thyme (US), False oregano, Greek oregano
DUTCH (Nederlands): Vijf-in-een-kruid
FRENCH (Français): Orielle
HINDI ( हिन्दी): पथरचुर
INDONESIAN (Bahasa Indonesia): Daun jintan
JAVANESE (Basa Jawa): Daun kutjing
KANNADA (ಕನ್ನಡ): ದೊಡ್ಡಪತ್ರೆ ಸೊಪ್ಪು
MALAY (بهاس ملاي /Bahasa Melayu ): Hati-hati hijau, Dacon ajenton, Bebangun, Bangun-bangun, Sedingin, Pokok ubat batuk, Raja bangun
MALAYALAM (മലയാളം): പനിക്കൂര്ക്ക
PORTUGUESE (Português): Hortelã-da-folha-grande (Brasil), Oregano
RUSSIAN (Русский): Шпороцветник ароматный
SPANISH (Español): Menta mexicana, Orégano francés, Orégano, Tomillo español, Orégano brujo (Puerto Rico), Toronjil de limón (Philippines), Orégano de Cartagena (Cuba), Borraja india, Orégano poleo (Dominican Republic), Orégano macho (Northwestern Mexico)
SWEDISH (Svenska): Kryddkarlbergare
TAMIL (தமிழ்): கற்பூரவல்லி, கற்பூரவள்ளி
TELUGU (తెలుగు): కప్పరిల్లాకు
TONGAN (Faka-Tonga): Pāsiole, Kaloni
VIETNAMESE (Tiếng Việt): Dương tử tô, Rau tần, Rau thơm lông, Rau thơm lùn, Tần dày lá, Húng chanh
Description: Plectranthus amboinicus (sometimes misspelled amboinensis) is a succulent plant in the family Lamiaceae, possessing short soft erect hairs, with an agreeable and refreshing oregano-like flavour and odour.
Habit: It is a mound-forming succulent subshrubs, shrubby at the base, much branched up to 150 (or more)cm in diameter and 30-90 cm tall if left untrimmed.
Stems: Up to 1,5 metres long, square, succulent, thick, more or less sprawling along the ground and turning upward at the tips, without tuberous base, becoming woody when older; younger ones firm-fleshy, either with long rigid hairs (hispidly villous) or tomentose (densely covered with soft, short and erect hairs, pubescent).
Leaves: Simple (undivided), opposite, petiolate, broadly ovate, 1.5-5 long, 1-4 broad, cm with a round or acute, tapering tip, rounded at the base, very thick and firm-succulent in texture, rather brittle and easily broken. Petiole 4-10 mm long. Margins dentate with 12 -18 pairs of teeth. Both faces green, pubescent (thickly studded with hairs), lower face with brown to colourless, more numerous glandular hairs, giving a frosted appearance. Glandular-dots, tip acute, base truncate.
Inflorescence (raceme): Slender, ascending, 10-30(-50) cm long, subspicate, lax, simple or with a pair of side branches at the base. Verticils densely glomerate spaced 10-30 mm apart, subsessile, 4-10-flowered. Bracts ovate to suborbicular, 2-3 mm. Pedicels 1.5-2.5 mm.
Flowers: Corolla 7-9 mm, densely hairy, blue-violet, lilac, mauve, purple or whitish, tube slightly bent near the middle, expanding towards throat, the upper lip erect, with 2 lateral earlike lobes, the lower lip horizontal and boat-shaped. Stamens united at the base for 1-2 mm, 4-5 mm long. Calix at fruiting time 3 mm.
Fruits (nutlets): Shiny, brown, 0.5 mm.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Wikipedia contributors, 'Plectranthus amboinicus', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 June 2014, 22:46 UTC, <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Plectranthus_amboinicus&oldid=613744226> [accessed 4 July 2014]
2) J. G. Baker “Flora of Tropical Africa” Vol 5, page 332 1900
3) Urs Eggli “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Dicotyledons” Springer Science & Business Media, 2002
4) Dr J.P. Roux “Flora of South Africa” 2003
5) George Staples, Michael S. Kristiansen “Ethnic Culinary Herbs: A Guide to Identification and Cultivation in Hawaiʻi” University of Hawaii Press, 01/gen/1999
6) Johannes Seidemann “World Spice Plants: Economic Usage, Botany, Taxonomy” Springer Science & Business Media, 27/Dec/2005
7) Aldén, B., S. Ryman & M. Hjertson, “Våra kulturväxters namn - ursprung och användning” Formas, Stockholm (Handbook on Swedish cultivated and utility plants, their names and origin) 2009
8) Balick, M. J., M. Nee & D. E. Atha, “Checklist of the vascular plants of Belize” Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 85: i–ix, 1–246 2000
9) Brako, L., A.Y. Rossman & D.F. Farr, “Scientific and Common Names of 7,000 Vascular Plants in the United States” 1995
10) CONABIO, “Catálogo taxonómico de especies de México” 1. in Ca. nat. México. CONABIO, Mexico City 2009
11) Davidse, G., M. Sousa Sánchez, S. Knapp & F. Chiang Cabrera, ed, “Rubiaceae a Verbenaceae”, Fl. Mesoamer. 4(2): in publication 2012,
12) Dyer, R. A., et al., eds, “Flora of southern Africa” 1963
13) Erhardt, W., et al., “Der große Zander: Enzyklopädie der Pflanzennamen” 2008
14) Gibbs Russell, G. E., W. G. Welman, E. Reitief, K. L. Immelman, G. Germishuizen, B. J. Pienaar, M. v. Wyk & A. Nicholas, “List of species of southern African plants” Mem. Bot. Surv. S. Africa, 2(1–2): 1–152(pt. 1), 1–270(pt. 2) 1987
15) Hanelt, P., ed, “Mansfeld's encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural crops” Volumes 1-6 2001
16) Hedge, I. C., R. A. Clement, A. J. Paton & P. B. Phillipson, “Labiatae” Fl. Madagasc, 175: 1–293 1998
17) Hokche, O., P. E. Berry & O. Huber,“Nuev. Cat. Fl. Vas. Venezuela” 1–860. Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela 2008
18) Huxley, A., ed, “The new Royal Horticultural Society dictionary of gardening” 1992
19) Markle, G. M., et al., eds, “Food and feed crops of the United States” 2nd Ed.1998
20) McGuffin, M., J. T. Kartesz, A. Y. Leung, & A. O. Tucker, “Herbs of commerce” 2nd Ed. 2000
21) Molina Rosito, A., “Enumeración de las plantas de Honduras” Ceiba 19(1): 1–118 1975
22) Rehm, S., “Multilingual dictionary of agronomic plants” 1994
23) Suddee, S., et al., “A taxonomic revision of tribe Ocimeae Dumort. (Lamiaceae)” in continental South East Asia II. Plectranthinae', Kew Bull. 59:391–393. 2004
24) Turrill, W. B., et al., eds, “Flora of Tropical East Africa” 1952
25) Mitteilungen der Botanischen Staatssammlung München.Page 297, Page 298, Page 381 [v.7-8 (1968-1970)]
Cultivation and Propagation: Plectranthus amboinicus grows easily in a well-drained, semi-shaded position. It is frost tender and grows well in sub-tropical and tropical locations, but will do well in cooler climates if grown in a pot and brought indoors, or moved to a warm sheltered position in winter. It needs little attention - and is quite hardy in a cool, well-lit conservatory or glasshouse, but grow well in a bright spot in the house too, need full sun to partial shade or high interior lighting with a well-drained soil mix. They do well outside in partial shade with good drainage.
Exposure: Full sun; this species thrives in dry, luminous locations.. If it is getting too much sun, the leaves turn yellow, start curling and look unsightly.When grown under shady or partly shady conditions, it becomes scraggly and unattractive. It ideally should be grown in a semi-shaded as the leaves will remain a beautiful jade-green colour.
Waterings: The plants are regularly watered and allowed to dry before watering again, pay attention don't overwater as stems may rot at the soil line. Some suggest to water just enough to keep the leaves from shrivelling this keep the plants more compact and enhances the leaves scent. If too much water is used, the leaves will turn yellow and get mushy. During the winter months, keep them quite dry or only water enough to keep the leaves from shrivelling.
Fertilization: Fertilizer is applied only once during the growing season and it is diluted to half strength.
Hardiness: Avoid freezing temperatures. (USDA hardiness zones 10-11)
Maintenance: The plants will vine but can be pinched to keep compact.
Use: The leaves are generally used fresh, either whole or finely diced as a substitute for oregano in flavouring soups, stews, sauces; it is particularly useful in masking strong odours and flavours such as those of fish, mutton, and goat. In Cuba it is used as an integral seasoning for frijoles negros, the national black bean soup. Virtually every kitchen garden in Latin America has a plant, so it is seldom seen for sale in viral markets. The Vietnamese use the leaves in meat dishes and stews and in India the leaves are fried in butter. Plectranthus amboinicus has a variety of medicinal uses, especially for the treatment of coughs, sore throats and nasal congestion, but also for a range of other problems such as infections, rheumatism and flatulence. Other uses include as an ornamental, and for its essential oils.
Propagation. From soft-wood cuttings at any time during the growing season, cutting will grow within days. Rarely grown from seed because the plants seldom flower and set seed.
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