Myrtle is an evergreen plant that belongs to the flowering species of the family called Myrtaceae. It is native to western Asia, the Mediterranean, and northern Africa. It has been used as a house plant since ancient times, as well as for its curative and gastronomic benefits.
Myrtle is considered to be one of the distinctive evergreen shrubs that are found in the habitats of the Mediterranean region. It is highly characterized by its shiny green leaves that are incredibly aromatic and fragrant, as well as by its clusters of beautiful flowers that sport a range of stunning colors. The flowers are an extremely important part of the plant, not only for their decorative quality but also because they are a rich source of essential oils that have considerable health and beauty benefits.
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The Significance of Myrtle
The name ‘myrtle’ comes from ‘Myrtus’ an ancient Greek word that means tree or sprig. Myrtus is believed to be a true symbol of remembrance, joy, and love, which is one of the primary reasons why ancient Greeks and Romans have always considered this plant to be associated with love and virginity. This is also why you have often seen the delicate flowers and leaves of this plant being featured in bridal wreaths and wedding bouquets.
The Myrtle flower is also often used as a symbolism for prosperity, good luck, and innocence. Interestingly, these very myrtle leaves and flowers have been used by the majority of people as a treatment for hemorrhoids, bacterial infections, wounds, acne, and gum infections. The essential oil that is extracted from its pretty white flowers is a popular ingredient in aromatherapy because the scent from the oil is believed to produce a very relaxing and soothing effect on the mind and body.
Additionally, you will also find myrtle leaves in most kitchen cabinets and pantries, primarily because of its usage in the culinary realm. When myrtle leaves are crushed, they release an amazing scent that makes a wonderful addition to numerous types of foods, including salads, pies, etc. The fruit of the plant which is quite berry-like also has a rich fragrance and often a very sweet flavor. This fruit is often used to make jams and pies and also liqueur, especially in Corsica and islands of Sardinia.
How to Care for Myrtle Bonsai Tree
If you, like many people, also fancy growing myrtle in your home or garden for its ornamental value, there are numerous things that you must look out for if you are to grow them successfully.
Firstly, you must understand that the myrtle tree needs adequate light and air to grow so the bonsai should be kept in a semi-shade area especially during the hot summer season. In autumn, however, you should take the container indoors in a cool room and place it under grow lights or simply near a window.
Secondly, the roots of the myrtle plant always need to be moist so you must water them regularly and prevent it from drying out. However, you must also refrain from wetting the soil too much.
Lastly, when trimming and pruning a myrtle tree, make sure to leave a pair of leaves on every twig. This will ensure that new buds are produced in due time.
Different Types and Varieties of Myrtle
There are numerous types of the myrtle plant, some of which are known for their medicinal and culinary properties, while others are popular for their ornamental value.
These are some of the most common varieties of the myrtle plant that are grown in most regions of the world and a majority of them are cultivated for their sweet and edible berry-like fruit.
Also known as European Myrtle and Common Myrtle, this plant is native to the Mediterranean region and is found in great abundance in North America, northern Africa, and southwestern Europe. True myrtle is best described as a hardy evergreen garden shrub that grows to an average height of 1.5-2.5 meters. This plant has been cultivated worldwide for centuries and is held in really high regards by many cultures.
It is more like an erect, upright shrub with a smooth, gray-brown colored bark and lustrous, pointed leaves that sport a nice, oval shape. It is one of the most favorite plants for a majority of coastal landscapers and also greatly attracts a number of mammals, insects, and birds.
True myrtle is often used for creating tall clipped hedges and beautiful topiaries. When it is left unclipped, it grows into this bushy, dense rounded shrub that is perfect for use in borders and foundations. The plant produces small, white starburst flowers that perfectly complement its dark green, glossy foliage. Its flowers are incredibly aromatic and they bloom during the spring and summer season.
True myrtle requires little to moderate water along with a full sun in order to successfully attain its maximum height. It can also grow in almost all types of soil as long as they are properly well-drained. This plant is very drought tolerant and it produces edible blueberry-like fruit that is not very sweet.
This type of myrtle is native to Chile and some adjacent regions of Southern Argentina. It is known by numerous other common names including ugni molinae, and Chilean Guava. It belongs to the same botanical family as that of guava. Interestingly, the fruit of the Strawberry Myrtle is often marketed as ‘Tazziberry’ in Australia and ‘Ugniberry’ in New Zealand.
Strawberry Myrtle is an evergreen shrub that grows between 30 cm to 170 cm in height. It thrives best under full sun, light shade and even partially shaded conditions. It is known for producing evergreen foliage with oval-shaped leaves that sport a glossy, dark green exterior and consist of a spicy scent that once can smell when you crush the leaves. This is one of the reasons why a lot of people brew dried leaves of this plant and consume it in place of regular tea.
This plant is also quite popular for its unique, ornamental qualities and is often grown as a low-forming hedge as well as in different garden containers. Apparently, according to historical records, the fruit of strawberry myrtle was a favorite of Queen Victoria because of its delicious flavor that tasted like wild strawberries.
The flowering period of this plant lasts for three months, as it begins in May and ends in July. It grows best in a loamy, sandy and clayey type of soils, but requires them to be perfectly well-drained.
Originally called Myrtus apiculata, Chilean Myrtle is native to the part of Central Andes that lies between Argentina and Chile. It is an evergreen bushy tree that grows almost 33-49 feet tall and produces super fragrant flowers.
Chilean Myrtle has a twisted type of trunk that boasts a bright orange-grayish colored bark that peels to reveal a creamy white young bark as the tree grows. It produces oval-shaped leaves that are small, scented and grows about 2.5 cm long and 1.5 cm broad.
The flowering period of this plant ranges from early to midsummer during which it produces stark, beautiful white flowers. Its fruits ripen in early autumn, are 1.0 cm in diameter, and are quite similar to edible blackberries and blueberries.
The Chilean Myrtle is a much valued and appreciated plant especially in Argentina and Chile because its flowers play a very important role in the production of honey. Mapuche people have also been reported to have used this plant for its a great many medicinal properties. Many people prefer keeping Chilean myrtle as a bonsai in garden for its stunning, slender red stems that offer the perfect contrast against the glossy green foliage.
This plant is commonly found in a woodland garden, especially under dappled shades and on sunny edges. An important thing to keep in mind about the Chilean Myrtle is that cannot grow in shaded areas or spaces and requires full sun to reach its maximum height. It further needs moist, well-drained soil that can range from sandy, loamy and clayey.
The fruit of this plant is popularly consumed in many parts of the world either raw or cooked. Although the fruit texture and flavor can vary from one plant to the other, the best varieties have a delicious taste with succulent juiciness and a pleasant aroma.
As the name suggests, this type of Myrtle plant is restricted to the mountains of the Central Sahara Dessert. It has been confined to specific zones of these mountains, one of which is the Tibesti Mountains in northern Chad. Tuareg people have consumed the Saharan Myrtle plant for a very long time as a traditional medicinal plant. The leaves of this plant have always been known to people for their incredible medicinal properties, the most popular of which is that it produces quite a penetrating effect.
This variety is also known as ‘sweet verbena’ and is probably one of the most popular types of myrtle plants. It grows in abundance in subtropical rainforests that mostly range from central to Southeastern Queensland, Australia.
Lemon Myrtle has also been found growing in the coastal areas of South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria. The tree grows to an average height of 26 feet which makes about 8 meters tall. In exceptional cases, some trees even grow as tall as 60 feet.
This plant produces dark green, glossy, lance-shaped leaves that sport great similarity to bay leaves, and they are quite fragrant. The lush foliage looks splendid against the plant’s beautiful cream-colored flowers that grow in dense clusters throughout the summer season.
The aroma of lemon myrtle leaves is often compared with that of lemongrass, Kaffir lime and hints of eucalyptus. Since it produces quite tangy and lemony flavor, lemon myrtle is often described by many people as “more lemon than lemon”. The name of the plant itself is a result of the strong lemon scent that comes from crushed myrtle leaves.
Lemon myrtle has been greatly used by indigenous Australians for both culinary as well as medicinal purposes. Although this plant is native to Australia, it has gained significant popularity throughout southern Europe, South Africa, and the southern United States. China and Southeast Asia have also started growing lemon myrtle in abundance for its essential oil. This oil is rich in citral, a medicinal ingredient that consists of numerous health benefits.
Interestingly, the essential oil from lemon myrtle leaves is also featured in a number of personal care products such as conditioners, body lotions, shampoos, soaps, and lip balms. The primary reason for such popularity is the fact that its scent produces quite a soothing effect that helps one sleep better and also gently relaxes the body.
This is an evergreen shrub that is native to southern and southeastern Asia, south to Malaysia, India, and east of Southern China. It is commonly found growing in bog margins, natural forests, coasts, wet forests, moist forests, and wetlands.
Rose myrtle grows to an average height of 4 meters which makes it almost 12 feet tall. It produces leathery leaves that are glossy green from the top and a dense grey-yellowish color towards the bottom. The flowers of this plant are a pretty pink color and they generally grow in clusters of three or more.
The fruit of this plant can be consumed raw since it has quite soft texture on the inside. Because of its incredibly sweet taste, the fruit is often used to make jams and pies and is also sometimes featured in fruit-based salads. Also referred to as a berry, the flavor of its fruits is quite like that of the Brazilian cherry. Aside from the unique scent and taste, its fruit consists of numerous health benefits, some of which include treatment for hepatitis and diabetes, keeping the liver and kidney in good health, and solving complications like diarrhea and stomach aches.
Lately, rose myrtle has begun to be known as quite an invasive species in many countries and regions of the world, including Hawaii, Florida and French Polynesia. It has the ability to invade a wide range of habitats that include mangrove marshes and pine flat woods.
One of the biggest users of the rose myrtle plant is its rich essential oil, the scent of which is believed to be quite similar to that of lemon myrtle essential oil. This oil is extracted through the process of distillation from the leaves and even the branches of the plant.
Also commonly known as western Australian peppermint and swan river peppermint, the willow myrtle plant is so named because of its weeping habit. This is quite a small and robust tree that grows to an average height of 10 meters tall and in special cases; it might even cross 15 meters.
The willow myrtle is quite an attractive tree that has a pendular growth habit. It produces stunning green foliage with clusters of small white flowers that bloom particularly during the spring and summer season. The leaves of this plant are long and shiny and they gently hang from drooping branches.
This plant occurs north of Perth on a sub coastal strip that extends further to the Swan Coastal Plain. Its habitat typically ranges from sandy soils, limestone heath and stable dunes. Willow myrtle is most commonly used in mass plantings and has been introduced for that very purpose in an area near its native region, namely Rottnest and Garden Islands.
Like rose myrtle, this plant has also been identified as quite an invasive species, particularly in Western Australia. As a result of its invasive tendencies, willow myrtle has caused major structural changes to the planting communities. Lately, it has also emerged as an environmental weed in Victoria, which is believed to be quite a threat to vegetation formations in that area. However, there are numerous other cultivars of willow myrtle that are being promoted for their ornamental value, especially as street trees.