Rosemary - Encyclopedia

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ROSEMARY, botanically Rosmarinus, a Labiate plant, the only representative of the genus and a native of the Mediterranean region. It is a low shrub with linear leaves, dark green above, white beneath, and with margins rolled back on to the under face. The flowers are in small axillary clusters. Each has a two-lipped calyx, from which projects a bluish two-lipped corolla enclosing two stamens, the other two, which are generally present in the family, being deficient. The fruit consists of four smooth nutlets. Botanically the genus is near to Salvia, but it differs in the shorter connective to the anther. Rosemary was highly esteemed by the ancients for its aromatic fragrance and medicinal uses. In modern times it is valued mainly as a perfume, for which purpose the oil is obtained by distillation. It doubtless has slight stimulant properties, such as are common to all volatile oils, which may account for the general belief in the efficacy of the plant in promoting the growth of the hair. Rosemary plays no unimportant part in literature and folk-lore, being esteemed as an emblem of remembrance. "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance," says Ophelia. Its use in connexion with funeral ceremonies is not extinct in country places to this day, and it was formerly much valued at wedding festivities. The name "ros marinus" or "ros maris," literally "sea-dew," was probably given in allusion to its native habitat in the neighbourhood of the sea.

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