Rosemary: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on rosemary

Rosmarinus officinalis, which is known commonly as rosemary, is a woody, perennial herb of the mint family Lamiaceae.

Rosemary is an aromatic evergreen shrub with leaves similar in appearance to hemlock needles. The plant can grow in forms that range from upright to trailing. When upright, rosemary can reach 5 feet (1.5 m) in height, or more rarely up to 6 or 7 feet (2m). Rosemary's leaves are evergreen, and measure 2–4 cm (0.8–1.6 in) in length and just 2–5 mm broad. The leaves have green topsides and are white below; they have short, dense, woolly hair.

In temperate climates, rosemary flowers during spring and summer, however in warm climates rosemary can bloom continuously. Rosemary flowers can be white, pink, purple, or deep blue.

common names & nomenclature
The name rosemary derives from ros and marinus, Latin for "dew" and "sea" respectively, or collectively "dew of the sea".

Also known as:
rosemary, polar plant, compass-weed, compass plant, rosmarinus coronarium

Rosemary, the rose of mary
Rosemary: Where in the World
habitat and range for rosemary

Rosmarinus officinalis is native to the Mediterranean region.

Rosemary: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting rosemary

Rosemary is used as an ornamental plant in sunny gardens and for xeriscape landscaping (landscaping that requires little or no irrigation), especially Mediterranean climates. It is easily grown, considered pest-resistant and it is even reasonably hardy in cool climates. Rosemary can withstand droughts, and can survive a severe lack of water for lengthy periods.

Rosemary grows best on friable loam soil with good drainage.

Rosemary can be propagated from an existing plant by clipping a shoot from a soft new growth. The clipping should be approximately 4 to 6 inches and should have a few leaves stripped from the bottom then can be planted directly into soil. Rosemary also be grown by seed, but germination is slow.

Rosemary leaves can be harvested in the spring or summer and used fresh, they can also be dried for later use.

Store dried rosemary in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Rosemary: The Rest of the Story
rosemary history, folklore, literature & more

rosemary beyond the kitchen
Thousands of years before refrigeration, ancient peoples noticed that wrapping meats in crushed rosemary leaves preserved them and imparted a fresh fragrance and pleasing flavor. To this day, the herb remains a favorite in meat dishes.

You’ve probably used rosemary plenty of times in your daily life. It’s a great herb for creating delicious recipes. The fragrance of rosemary is a delight when you smell it being heated in your favorite chicken or bread recipe. It’s a true favorite of Italian cooking as well. And in the Mediterranean, it’s considered a plant that brings good luck. A high quality dried herb is the perfect thing to keep in your cupboard so that you’ll have the right thing for every recipe. Rosemary is not only delicious; it lends an enticing aroma to your dishes.

Rosemary's ability to preserve meats led to the belief that it helped preserve memory. Greek students wore rosemary garlands to assist their recall. As the centuries passed, the herb was incorporated into wedding ceremonies as a symbol of spousal fidelity and into funerals to help survivors to remember the dead. In Hamlet, Ophelia gives Hamlet a sprig, saying, "There's rosemary...remembrance."

rosemary as a symbol of love
During the Middle Ages, rosemary's association with weddings evolved into its use as a love charm. If a young person tapped another with a rosemary twig containing an open blossom, the couple would supposedly fall in love.

Placed under one's pillow, the aromatic herb was believed to repel bad dreams. Planted around one's home, it was reputed to ward off witches.

But by the 16th century, planting rosemary around the home became a bone of contention in England, where the belief developed that it signified a household where the woman ruled. Men were known to rip out rosemary plants as evidence that they—not their wives—ruled the roost.

rosemary as a garden accent
Rosemary is a woody, pine-scented, evergreen perennial with needle like leaves. It reaches 3 feet in the United States and produced small, pale blue flowers in summer. Creeping rosemary (R. prostratus) is widely used in the Western United States as a ground cover and cascade over garden walls.

Rosemary can be grown from seeds, but germination can be a problem and seedlings are slow to develop, which is why most herb growers prefer to start with cuttings. If you sow seeds plant them in spring 6 inches apart. Plant cuttings in sandy soil, leaving only one-third of each twig showing.

Rosemary prefers light, sandy, well drained soil and full sun. Over watering may cause root rot. Rosemary usually survives zero degree winter temperatures without special care. If you live where temperatures dip lower, mulch plants each autumn or grow the herb in pots, bring them indoors each winter and keep in a south facing window. Cut twigs and strip the leaves any time after plants have become established.