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Myrtus communis - L.

Common Name Myrtle, Foxtail Myrtle
Family Myrtaceae
USDA hardiness 9-11
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Scrub, avoiding calcareous soils[50].
Range S. Europe to W. Asia.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Frost Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Myrtus communis Myrtle, Foxtail Myrtle

Myrtus communis Myrtle, Foxtail Myrtle


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Bloom Color: Pink, White. Main Bloom Time: Early summer, Early fall, Late summer, Late spring, Mid summer, Mid fall, Mid spring. Form: Rounded.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Myrtus communis is an evergreen Shrub growing to 4.5 m (14ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 8 and is frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from July to August, and the seeds ripen in October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.



Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Hedge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers;  Fruit.
Edible Uses: Condiment;  Drink.

Fruit - raw or cooked[2, 105]. The fruit has an aromatic flavour[245], it can be eaten fresh when ripe or can be dried and is then used as an aromatic food flavouring, especially in the Middle East[7, 46, 238]. It can also be made into an acid drink[89, 148]. The fruit is about 8mm in diameter[200]. The leaves are used as a flavouring in cooked savoury dishes[238]. The dried fruits and flower buds are used to flavour sauces, syrups etc[183]. An essential oil from the leaves and twigs is used as a condiment, especially when mixed with other spices[183]. In Italy the flower buds are eaten[183]. The flowers have a sweet flavour and are used in salads[245].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antibiotic;  Antidiarrhoeal;  Antiseptic;  Aromatic;  Astringent;  Balsamic;  Carminative;  Haemostatic;  
TB;  Tonic.

The leaves are aromatic, balsamic, haemostatic and tonic[7, 46]. Recent research has revealed a substance in the plant that has an antibiotic action[7]. The active ingredients in myrtle are rapidly absorbed and give a violet-like scent to the urine within 15 minutes[238]. The plant is taken internally in the treatment of urinary infections, digestive problems, vaginal discharge, bronchial congestion, sinusitis and dry coughs[238, 254]. In India it is considered to be useful in the treatment of cerebral affections, especially epilepsy[240]. Externally, it is used in the treatment of acne (the essential oil is normally used here), wounds, gum infections and haemorrhoids[238]. The leaves are picked as required and used fresh or dried[238]. An essential oil obtained from the plant is antiseptic[240]. It contains the substance myrtol - this is used as a remedy for gingivitis[7]. The oil is used as a local application in the treatment of rheumatism[240]. The fruit is carminative[240]. It is used in the treatment of dysentery, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, internal ulceration and rheumatism[240].

Other Uses

Charcoal;  Essential;  Hedge;  Hedge.

The plant is very tolerant of regular clipping[200] and can be grown as a hedge in the milder parts of Britain[166, 200]. An essential oil from the bark, leaves and flowers is used in perfumery, soaps and skin-care products[89, 143, 238]. An average yield of 10g of oil is obtained from 100 kilos of leaves[7]. A perfumed water, known as "eau d'ange", is obtained from the flowers[245]. A high quality charcoal is made from the wood[89]. Wood - hard, elastic, very fine grained. Used for walking sticks, tool handles, furniture etc[46, 89].

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Erosion control, Foundation, Hedge, Massing, Rock garden, Standard, Superior hedge, Specimen. Succeeds in any reasonably good soil so long as it is well-drained[1]. Prefers a moderately fertile well-drained neutral to alkaline loam in a sunny position[11, 200, 238]. Succeeds in dry soils. A very ornamental plant[1], when fully dormant it is hardy to between -10 and -15°c[184], so long as it is sheltered from cold drying winds[200], though it does withstand quite considerable maritime exposure[K]. The young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. This species does not succeed outdoors in the colder parts of Britain[11, 49]. A moderately fast-growing plant when young but soon slowing with age[202]. There are a number of named varieties[183]. 'Tarentina' with narrow small leaves is hardier than the type and is especially wind-resistant[182, 200], 'Microphylla' is a dwarf form and 'Leucocarpa' has white berries[182]. Myrtle is often cultivated in the Mediterranean[7], where the plant is regarded as a symbol of love and peace[89] and is much prized for use in wedding bouquets[182]. The foliage is strongly aromatic[184]. Any pruning is best carried out in the spring[238]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Special Features: Attractive foliage, Fragrant foliage, Not North American native, Attractive flowers or blooms.


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Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow it in late winter in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts[K]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Pot up in the autumn and overwinter in a cold frame. Plant out in late spring. High percentage[78]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth, 7 - 12cm with a heel, November in a shaded and frost free frame. Plant out in late spring or early autumn. High percentage[78]. Layering.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Echte Myrte, Maile haole, Mirto, Mrca, Murta, Myrte, Periwinkle, Rihan, Tassie berry,

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Africa, Albania, Australia, Azores, Balkans, Bosnia, Canada, Chile, China, Cyprus, East Africa, Ethiopia, Europe*, Fiji, France, Greece, Hawaii, India, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kurdistan, Mediterranean*, Morocco, North Africa, North America, Pacific, Palestine, Portugal, Spain, Tanzania, Tasmania, Turkey, USA,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

dusan bugarin   Sun Mar 13 18:35:10 2005

Link: Novi Sad atimikrob carceristik Myrtus communis

David Nicholls   Wed Nov 7 2007

I should have mentioned I'm in a cool climate (Wellington, New Zealand) I've heard of Rosemary emiting much more fragrance in hotter climates, maybe that's the problem

simona liliana kovacs   Wed Mar 15 2006

Thank you for the great information. Would have been interesting with some pictures and even receipts. However, best information still.

Tony Lake   Mon Aug 28 2006

This is a helpful page but the text "The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. "The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils." Seems to cover all angles if those types are preferred what remains?

david nicholls   Wed Nov 7 2007

I just got a very young Myrtus communis, the leaves seem to have little or no fragrance, I added some leaves to a roast, no obvious flavor change(as many books would tell you to expect). I thought maybe the fragrance doesn't develop until they are older. Anyone know? Is there anyone out there who finds the flavor and fragrance strong?

satis singh   Thu Sep 17 2009

please send photograph

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