Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Fragrance of Lavender

True or English Lavender (L. angustifolia subspecies angustifolia growing in Bonnefont Herb Garden.

Above: Lavandula angustifolia in Bonnefont Cloister Herb Garden

The scent of lavender has always represented the quintessential fragrance of the herb garden to me. This sweet, full-bodied aroma has the magical ability to conjure up special memories and associations with the past and present. Although this fragrance may seem magical, it also serves a very important biological function for the plant and the ecosystem in which it exists. The aroma of the flower attracts insects that share a symbiotic relationship with the plant. Bees—the most important of these insects—are integral in the pollination of lavender. They serve as pollen vectors between male and female flower parts.

The complex fragrance of lavender is created by the merging of roughly 180 chemical constituents. These chemicals vary greatly among different members of this genus and contribute to the commercial value of a particular species. The essential oil of lavender is the most commercially important product of this plant. It is used in cosmetics, insect repellents, and an assortment of aromatherapy products. Additionally, it has been proved that lavender oil has powerful properties as an antiseptic. Lavandula angustifolia produces the most valuable oil and is used in expensive perfumes and cosmetics. The oil of Lavandula x intermedia is often used as an affordable replacement for L. angustifolia (Tim Upson and Susyn Andrews, The Genus Lavandula, 2004).

—Kevin Wiecks

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Comments (4)

  1. GraceAnne Ladyhawk Says:

    Lavender is one of my favorite herbs and favorite scents, and it even grows in my tiny front yard in the green and leafy Bronx. I am so enjoying this blog, and thank you for it.

  2. Kevin Wiecks Says:

    GraceAnne Ladyhawk,
    I am glad you are enjoying the blog. We are certainly enjoying moderating it. Yes, if lavender has sun and good drainage it will do wonderful in almost any environment.

  3. Alexandra Says:

    I love the lavender I planted this spring in my garden in the Garden State. It has attracted so many butterflies! So beautiful.

    Sometimes I snip a few sprigs and sprinkle it onto my clothes before I iron them. I take the other sprigs into my bath. It makes an amazing toner as well when emersed in boiling water and then let cool.

  4. Kevin Wiecks Says:

    Alexandra,
    Although bees are the main pollinators of Lavender, the plant certainly attracts its’ share of butterflies and moths. A visitor reported that she spotted a swallowtail on the Lavandin in Cuxa Cloister Garden.

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