Invasive Species Compendium

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Datasheet

Rosmarinus officinalis
(rosemary)

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Datasheet

Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Rosmarinus officinalis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • rosemary
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • R.officinalis is listed in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012) as “casual alien, cultivation e...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); flowering sprig.
TitleFlowers
CaptionRosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); flowering sprig.
Copyright©THOR/via wikipedia - CC BY 2.0
Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); flowering sprig.
FlowersRosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); flowering sprig.©THOR/via wikipedia - CC BY 2.0
Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); habit. Lassithi, Crete, Greece. April, 2010.
TitleHabit
CaptionRosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); habit. Lassithi, Crete, Greece. April, 2010.
Copyright©H. Zell/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); habit. Lassithi, Crete, Greece. April, 2010.
HabitRosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); habit. Lassithi, Crete, Greece. April, 2010.©H. Zell/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); flowering habit.
TitleFlowering habit
CaptionRosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); flowering habit.
Copyright©fir0002/via wikipedia/flagstaffotos.com.au - CC BY-NC 3.0
Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); flowering habit.
Flowering habitRosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); flowering habit.©fir0002/via wikipedia/flagstaffotos.com.au - CC BY-NC 3.0
Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary); flowers and foliage. Community Garden, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March, 2015.
TitleFlowers and foliage
CaptionRosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary); flowers and foliage. Community Garden, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March, 2015.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary); flowers and foliage. Community Garden, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March, 2015.
Flowers and foliageRosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary); flowers and foliage. Community Garden, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March, 2015.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); seeds.
TitleSeeds
CaptionRosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); seeds.
CopyrightPublic Domain - CC0 1.0 - Released by Leo Michels/http://www.imagines-plantarum.de/
Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); seeds.
SeedsRosmarinus officinalis (rosemary); seeds.Public Domain - CC0 1.0 - Released by Leo Michels/http://www.imagines-plantarum.de/
Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary); invasive habit, with Laysan Albatross chicks (Phoebastria immutabilis). Community Garden, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March, 2015.
TitleHabit
CaptionRosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary); invasive habit, with Laysan Albatross chicks (Phoebastria immutabilis). Community Garden, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March, 2015.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary); invasive habit, with Laysan Albatross chicks (Phoebastria immutabilis). Community Garden, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March, 2015.
HabitRosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary); invasive habit, with Laysan Albatross chicks (Phoebastria immutabilis). Community Garden, Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. March, 2015.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Rosmarinus officinalis L.

Preferred Common Name

  • rosemary

Other Scientific Names

  • Rosmarinus angustifolius Miller
  • Rosmarinus latifolius Miller
  • Rosmarinus laxiflorus Noë ex Lange
  • Salvia rosmarinus Schleiden

International Common Names

  • English: common rosemary; compass plant
  • Spanish: romero
  • French: incensier; romarin; romarin officinal; rosmarin
  • Chinese: mi die xiang; mi tieh hsiang
  • Portuguese: rosmaninho

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Garten- Rosmarin; Rosmarin
  • Haiti: lonmarin; omarin; romarin du pays
  • India: rasmari; rusmari
  • Italy: osmarini; ramerino; rosmarino
  • Japan: mannenrû
  • Mexico: guixi cicanaca yala-rillaa; quixi cicanaca yalatillaa
  • Middle East: iklil; iklil el-gabal
  • Netherlands: rozemarijn
  • Philippines: dumero; romero; rosmiro
  • Portugal: alecrim
  • Russian Federation: biberiye; rozmarin
  • Sweden: rosmarin
  • Turkey: biberiye

EPPO code

  • RMSOF (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Summary of Invasiveness

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R.officinalis is listed in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012) as “casual alien, cultivation escape, garden thug, naturalised, weed” and is reported to be invasive to Cuba (Oviedo-Prieto et al., 2012). The species is of Mediterranean origin but is cultivated pantropically for medicinal, culinary, and ornamental purposes as well as for its essential oils. The species can regenerate by both seeds and cuttings (Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder, 2014), is tolerant of heat and drought, and thrives in areas with dry, poor, rocky, and sandy soil (Floridata, 2014). Although previously determined to have ‘negligible’ potential as a weed according to a 2001 risk assessment prepared for the USDA (Kahn and Lima, 2001), risk of introduction for this species has risen since then and is likely to be higher in areas where it is commercially grown, due to its known invasive traits and widespread popularity in cultivation.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Lamiales
  •                         Family: Lamiaceae
  •                             Genus: Rosmarinus
  •                                 Species: Rosmarinus officinalis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The Lamiacae family, or mint family, is a family of herbs, shrubs and trees comprising about 200 genera and 3200 species, many with a long history of medicinal and food use (University of Hawaii, 2014). This family includes some of the most well-known herbs containing essential oils, including lavender, sage, basil, mint and oregano. Many Lamiaceae species have square stems (although square stems are also found in other families), aromatic aerial parts when crushed, simple opposite leaves, and two-lipped flowers.

The rosemary genus Rosmarinus is a small genus of evergreen shrubs with narrow, aromatic leaves and 2-lipped blue flowers borne in small clusters in the leaf axils (Royal Horticultural Society, 2014). The genus name derives from the Greek ros and marinus, ‘dew of the sea’, referring to its native seaside Mediterranean origin (Stearn, 1992).

Rosmarinus officinalis is the type species of the genus, as well as the most well-known rosemary species. It is a bushy, evergreen perennial shrub native to the Mediterranean and cultivated around the world as a medicinal, ornamental, culinary, and essential oil-bearing plant. Common names for R. officinalis relate the species to various myths and folklore, as the plant has been known and used in many cultures since antiquity. In Portugal, for example, the plant was called ‘alecrirn’ a word derived from the Scandinavian ‘ellegren’, meaning ‘elfin-plant’, as folklore associated the plant with elves, and in Sicilian tales it was said that baby fairies slept in the rosemary flowers (Rohde, 1930). In Spain a common name for the species, ‘romero’, is interpreted as ‘pilgrim’s flower’, in reference to a traditional tale that the Virgin Mary rested under a rosemary bush during the flight to Egypt (Rohde, 1930).

Rosemary is very variable in habit (erect to creeping), size and colour of leaves and flowers and composition of the essential oil. This variability has led to recognition of four species by some; others distinguish one species with many varieties and forms (Guzman, 1999).

Description

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Rosemary is an evergreen, usually erect, bushy shrub up to 2 m tall and wide. Stem indistinctly quadrangular, finely grey pubescent. Leaves opposite, tufted on the branches, sessile to short petiolate; blade linear, 1-5 cm x 1-2 mm, base attenuate, margin entire but revolute, apex obtuse, leathery, dark glossy sea-green and subglabrous above, white-felted tomentose beneath, aromatically fragrant when crushed. Inflorescence racemose, axillary, 5- to 10-flowered, 0.5-2.5 cm long, terminating short lateral branches; pedicel 2-5 mm long; calyx campanulate, 2-lipped, 5-6 mm long, densely stellate tomentose, upper lip small and 3-dentate, lower lip 2-lobed; corolla tubular, 2-lipped,10-13 mm long, pale blue or blue (seldom white), upper lip erect or recurved, 2-lobed, ovate, about 4 mm long, lower lip 3-lobed, about 7 mm long, with large concave middle lobe; 2 anterior stamens perfect, 7-8 mm long, ascending under the base of the upper lip, 2 posterior stamens reduced to hardly visible staminodes; pistil with deeply 4-partite ovary, style incurved, 1.5 cm long ending into 2 short, unequal branches with stigma. Fruit composed of 4 subglobose to obovoid nutlets, about 2 mm long, glabrous and smooth (Guzman, 1999).

Plant Type

Top of page Perennial
Seed propagated
Shrub
Vegetatively propagated
Woody

Distribution

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R. officinalis is native to the Mediterranean region, from where it has been introduced into all continents. In India, it is reportedly often cultivated in gardens, while it is much rarer in Pakistan (Flora of Pakistan, 2014). The species is an introduced species in the West Indies (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012) and is reported to be invasive to Cuba (Oviedo-Prieto et al., 2012). 

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes

Asia

ChinaPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014
IndiaPresent only in captivity/cultivationNativeHanelt et al., 2001; Flora of Pakistan, 2014
-Jammu and KashmirPresentIntroducedTantry et al., 2012Kashmir Valley
IranPresentZarandi et al., 2014
Korea, Republic ofPresentAktaruzzaman et al., 2015
PakistanPresentFlora of Pakistan, 2014
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedHanelt et al., 2001
TaiwanPresentAnn et al., 2010
TurkeyPresent Natural Hanelt et al., 2001; Govaerts, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014

Africa

AlgeriaPresent Natural Hanelt et al., 2001; Govaerts, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
Cape VerdePresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2014
EgyptPresentNativeGovaerts, 2014
LibyaPresent Natural Govaerts, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
MoroccoPresent Natural Hanelt et al., 2001; Govaerts, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
South AfricaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedHanelt et al., 2001
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
TunisiaPresent Natural Hanelt et al., 2001; Govaerts, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014

North America

BermudaPresentIntroducedBritton, 1918; Govaerts, 2014Naturalized on St. David
MexicoPresentIntroducedHanelt et al., 2001; Govaerts, 2014Central Mexico
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-ArizonaPresentIntroducedStevens and Ayers, 2002Grand Canyon region
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedHanelt et al., 2001; USDA-NRCS, 2014
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-OregonPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-TexasPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2014; USDA-NRCS, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

BarbadosPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; Oviedo et al., 2012
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
GuadeloupePresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
GuatemalaPresentFlora Mesoamericana, 2014
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
MartiniquePresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; USDA-NRCS, 2014
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012

South America

ArgentinaPresentGorustovich et al., 1999
BoliviaPresent only in captivity/cultivationBolivia Checklist, 2014Cochabamba, La Paz
BrazilPresentIntroducedFenner et al., 2006
-ParanaPresentJacomassi and Piedade, 1994Goierê
ColombiaPresent only in captivity/cultivationVascular Plants of Antioquia, 2014Altiplanos de Santa Rosa de Osos, Rionegro y Sonsón, Valle del Río Porce, Vertiente occidental de la Cordillera Central
EcuadorPresent only in captivity/cultivationVascular Plants of Ecuador, 2014Azuay, Pichincha
ParaguayPresent only in captivity/cultivationParaguay Checklist, 2014Central, Cordillera, Paraguarí
PeruPresentIntroducedPeru Checklist, 2014Piura

Europe

AlbaniaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2014; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2014
BulgariaPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2014; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2014
CroatiaPresentNativeHanelt et al., 2001
CyprusPresent Natural Govaerts, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
FrancePresent Natural Hanelt et al., 2001; Govaerts, 2014; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
-CorsicaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2014; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
GreecePresent Natural Govaerts, 2014; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
ItalyPresent Natural Govaerts, 2014; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
MacedoniaPresentNativeGovaerts, 2014; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
PortugalPresent Natural Govaerts, 2014; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
-AzoresPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2014; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Naturalized
-MadeiraPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
SpainPresent Natural Govaerts, 2014; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
SwitzerlandPresentIntroducedRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2014
UKPresentIntroducedMiddle AgesHanelt et al., 2001
UkrainePresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Krymskaya OblastPresentIntroducedGovaerts, 2014; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2014
Yugoslavia (former)Present Natural Govaerts, 2014; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014

Oceania

AustraliaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedHanelt et al., 2001

History of Introduction and Spread

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R. officinalis is native to the Mediterranean region, and was reportedly introduced into China around 220 AD where it is now cultivated (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014). In England, where the species has been popular since at least Tudor times, Rosemary was probably first introduced by the Romans, but according to tradition it was re-introduced by Queen Philippa of Hainault in the fourteenth century; a manuscript in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge claims that rosemary was unknown in England until the Countess of Hainault sent some to her daughter Queen Philippa (Rohde, 1930).

Date of introduction to the West Indies is uncertain but it has been present there since the early twentieth century. The species was not listed in Bello’s (1881, 1883) works on Puerto Rico but was included in Britton’s flora of Bermuda (1918), in which the species was noted to have been naturalized ‘for many years’ on St. David’s. It was also included in Britton and Wilson’s (1923-1926) work on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, in which the species was reportedly an occasional cultivation in Virgin Island gardens. Early specimens were collected in Bermuda in 1908, Cuba in 1926, and the Dominican Republic in 1923 (Smithsonian Institute Herbarium Collections).

Risk of Introduction

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Risk of introduction for R.officinalis, at least in the USA, has risen in the last decade. Previously the risk was considered low; a 2001 USDA pest risk assessment of this species’ importation from El Salvador to the USA found its potential as a weed to be negligible as “it has not been reported to have weedy characteristics” (Kahn and Lima, 2001), but it has since been listed in the Global Compendium of Weeds as “casual alien, cultivation escape, garden thug, naturalised, weed” (Randall, 2012) and is known to be invasive to Cuba (Oviedo Prieto et al, 2012). The species is distributed well beyond its native Mediterranean range as it is cultivated around the world for medicinal, culinary, and ornamental purposes as well as for its essential oils. It is capable of regenerating by both seeds and cuttings (Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder, 2014), tolerates heat and drought, and thrives in areas with dry, poor, rocky, and sandy soils (Floridata, 2014). Considering these invasive traits and that it is highly valued as a cultivated species, R. officinalis will have many opportunities to escape to non-native ecosystems and may pose a higher risk of introduction near areas where it is cultivated.

Habitat

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R. officinalis originated in the Mediterranean region with coastal climate, and can tolerate heat, drought, and poor, dry, sandy, and rocky soil types (Floridata, 2014). The species is cultivated around the world in both urban and rural gardens and agricultural settings. It also occurs in disturbed areas in Peru (Peru Checklist, 2014) while in Colombia, it occurs in premontane and lower montane humid forest habitats (Vascular Plants of Antioquia, 2014), and in Bolivia it occurs in dry valleys (Bolivia Checklist, 2014). In Bermuda it was reported by Britton (1918) to grow on rocky hillsides.

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Littoral
Coastal areas Present, no further details Natural
Coastal areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial-managed
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Arid regions Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Natural forests Present, no further details Natural
Rocky areas / lava flows Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Physiology and Phenology

The following is taken from Guzman (1999): Seeds of rosemary are slow to germinate taking about 3-4 weeks before emerging from the soil. To enhance germination the temperature should remain below 18°C. Seedlings are likewise slow to develop, becoming a dense shrub with a diameter of 60 cm and a height of 90 cm only by the end of the second growing season. Flowering is initiated when plants are 2 or more years old. Under favourable growing conditions and optimal cultural management, rosemary can remain productive for up to 30 years.

Environmental Requirements

R. officinalis is cultivated in tropical and temperate regions around the world. Outside of cultivation it grows primarily in dry, sandy or rocky soils in a temperate climate characterized by warm summers and mild, dry winters (Floridata, 2014). It can tolerate maritime exposure and soil types ranging from light (sandy) to medium (loamy), preferring well-drained soil, and can tolerate soils of any pH ranging from acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and even very alkaline soils (PFAF, 2014). However, the species performs poorly in heavy clay soils and wet, poorly-drained soils in winter are usually fatal (Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder, 2014). It has low tolerance for shade and thrives under full sun (Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder, 2014; PFAF, 2014).

The species can grow in premontane and lower montane humid forest climate zones, with reported elevations up to 3500 m. In the southwestern United States, the species has been recorded growing at elevations below 800 m (Stevens and Ayers, 2002). In Colombia it has been observed growing between 1500-2500 m (Vascular Plants of Antioquia, 2014), in the Andean regions of Ecuador between 2000-3000 m (Vascular Plants of Ecuador, 2014), in Bolivia between 2500-3500 m (Bolivia Checklist, 2014), and in the Andean regions of Peru between 3000-3500 m (Peru Checklist, 2014).

The following is taken from Guzman (1999): The ecological amplitude of rosemary is from the temperate humid zone (mean annual temperature of 6-12°C; mean annual rainfall of 1000-2000 mm) to the subtropical semi-arid to humid zones (18-24°C, 500-2000 mm). Its pH tolerance ranges from 4.5-8.3, but preferably 6-7.5. In the Mediterranean region, rosemary thrives on calcareous soils, on dry sunny mountain slopes and near the coast where it is frequently exposed to fog and salt spray. Rosemary can survive in areas with mild winters, but not in localities where the temperature frequently falls below -3°C. Once established rosemary roots deeply and is drought-resistant.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Tolerated > 60mm precipitation per month
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
BS - Steppe climate Preferred > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -3
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 6 24

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall5002000mm; lower/upper limits

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Chrysolina americana Herbivore Inflorescence/Leaves not specific
Meloidogyne incognita Parasite Roots not specific
Peronospora lamii Pathogen Leaves not specific
Rhizobium radiobacter Pathogen Roots/Stems not specific
Rhizobium rhizogenes Pathogen Roots not specific
Saissetia oleae Parasite Leaves/Stems not specific
Sclerotinia sclerotiorum Pathogen Leaves/Stems not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Reports of pests and diseases of R. officinalis are generally from where the plant is grown as a crop. Rosemary beetle (Chrysolina americana) is a pest principally of R. officinalis and lavender (Lavandula officinalis) (Barclay and Mann, 2002; Mileck and Simala, 2010). Other pests of rosemary include Meloidogyne spp. (Gorustovich et al., 1999), while the leafhopper Eupteryx decemnotata has recently been reported as causing damage in Poland. Diseases reported on the crop plant include web blight caused by Rhizoctonia solani (Bertetti et al., 2013; Aktaruzzaman et al,, 2015), and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (Garibaldi et al., 2005). Nigrospora oryzae and Gibberella pulicaris are recent disease records from Iran (Moshrefi Zarandi et al., 2014; Zarandi et al., 2014).

Guzman (1999) states: “Rosemary has been reported to be attacked by Phytocoris rosmarini and Orthotylus ribesi in Spain and by Sclerotinia sclerotiorum in India. It has also been found susceptible to the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita”.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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R. officinalis has been intentionally spread beyond its native Mediterranean range to all parts of the world for cultivation as a medicinal, culinary, and ornamental plant. It has been accidentally introduced as it is a known cultivation escape (Randall, 2012). The species is capable of regenerating by both seeds and cuttings (Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder, 2014), and can thus spread through garden waste or plant parts sold for medicinal and culinary use. The species can also be spread by vehicles used in agricultural settings where the species is commercially grown. 

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Breeding and propagationBred for commercial use as a herb Yes Yes
Escape from confinement or garden escapeKnown cultivation escape Yes Yes Randall, 2012
FoodStems and leaves sold in markets and groceries Yes Yes Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder, 2014
Garden waste disposal Yes Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder, 2014
Medicinal use Yes Yes
Nursery trade Yes Yes
Ornamental purposes Yes Yes
ResearchValuable commercial herb, subject of research for breeding and cultivation Yes Yes

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Environment (generally) Negative

Environmental Impact

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Potential for R. officinalis to become a weed was previously determined to be ‘negligible’ (Kahn and Lima, 2001) but risk of introduction for this species is now higher as it has since been reported as a cultivation escape, garden thug, and weed (Randall, 2012) and is known to be invasive to Cuba (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012). Little data is available on possible negative environmental and economic impacts of the spread of this species, but considering its long history of widespread cultivation, use and value as a culinary, medicinal and ornamental species in all regions of the world, restriction to the international trade and import of R. officinalis to non-native and non-naturalized places is unlikely.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Long lived
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
  • Has high genetic variability
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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R. officinalis is used as a food additive and medicine, and is also grown for its essential oils and as a bee plant for honey production (USDA-ARS, 2014). It is cultivated for its aromatic oils in the Mediterranean, and in India it is reputedly quite widely cultivated in gardens, while in Pakistan it is also apparently used as a hedge plant (Flora of Pakistan, 2014). The species is known to be sedative, carminative, sudorific, cardiac stimulant, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, diuretic, digestive, antiseptic, and anti-spasmodic (Quattrocchi, 2012).

Antifungal and pesticidal effects of the essential oil of rosemary have been widely investigated. Kiran and Prakash (2015) report effectiveness of the essential oil used as a fumigant against Sitophilus oryzae and Oryzaephilus surinamensis, and record inhibition of enzyme activity in the test insects. Mattei et al. (2014) report that the essential oil gives some control of Meloidogyne javanica but is ineffective against Pratylenchus brachyurus. Studies on antifungal activity, including against plant pathogenic fungi, include Ozcan and Chalchat (2008), Pitarokili et al., (2008) and Matusinsky et al. (2015).

The following has been taken from Guzman (1999): “The fresh or dried leaves are excellent flavouring agents in vegetables, meat (particularly lamb, veal and roasted chicken), sauces, stews, herbal butters, cream soups, fruit salads, jams, biscuits and bread. The dry leaves are also used in crushed or powder form, primarily in food preparations.  Rosemary oil, distilled from the flowering tops and leaves, is used to season processed foods, but for the most part it is employed in perfumes, in scenting soaps, detergents, household sprays and other related technical products. It finds application in denaturing alcohol and is popular in aromatherapy. In the USA the regulatory status 'generally recognized as safe' has been accorded to rosemary (GRAS-2991), rosemary oil (GRAS-2992) and rosemary oleoresin (GRAS 3001). The maximum permitted level of rosemary oil in food products is about 0.003%. Rosemary oleoresin is used in the food industry as a natural antioxidant, for instance in cooked meat products. In traditional medicine, rosemary is thought to fortify the brain and refresh the memory. Flowering tops and leaves are considered carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, aperient, emmenagogue, stimulant, stomachic and astringent. Rosemary also serves as a household remedy for headaches, bruises, colds, nervous tension, asthma, baldness and sore throat. In the Philippines, an infusion of the leaves is used as an eyewash for slight catarrhal conjunctivitis, as vapour baths for rheumatism, paralysis and incipient catarrhs, and to bathe women in puerperal state. Rosemary leaves are therapeutically allowed internally for dyspeptic complaints, and externally for rheumatic diseases and circulatory problems. Rosemary is very popular as an ornamental plant used as a ground cover, hedge or shrub and is even transformed by hobbyists into bonsai or planted in hanging baskets. The leaves and flowers can be carefully dried and sold in elegant sachets and potpourris. For the last 1000 years in Europe, rosemary has been a symbol of happiness, fidelity and love, and a wedding and funeral flower.

Properties

Information on properties and uses of the oil are reproduced from Guzman (1999):

The dried leaves contain 1-2% volatile oil. Verbenone is the character-impact compound in rosemary; the pungent, camphoraceous odour and burning taste is attributed to borneol; the cooling and minty note to camphor; the fresh aroma to cineole; and the warm, piny scent to alpha-pinene. The phenols thymol, carvacrol and eugenol also play an important role in the flavouring properties of the oil. A monograph on the physiological properties of rosemary oil has been published by the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM). Rosemary possesses strong antioxidant properties. Carnosic acid, the major phenolic diterpene present in the leaves, has been found to be several times more effective than the commercial food preservatives butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) in controlling oxidation in soya-bean oil. Rosemary also possesses some antibacterial and antifungal properties. Extracts of the plant have been found to inhibit skin tumorigenesis in test animals. The volatile oil of rosemary has been reported to induce hyperglycemia and to inhibit insulin release in test rabbits.

Three types of rosemary oil are sometimes recognized: a camphor type (produced mainly in Spain), a 1,8-cineole type (produced mainly in Morocco) and a verbenone + bornyl acetate type that is a cottage-industry product from Corsica. In herbal medicine rosemary oil is used to treat acute middle ear infections and to stimulate liver and gall bladder. It is said to be very beneficial for dry skin in skin-care products. Verbenone is also an insect pheromone. Synthetic verbenone is used in programmes to control several bark beetle species in pine trees.

Rosemary oil has in the past been adulterated with turpentine, oil of pine, certain fractions of camphor oil (i.e. camphor) and eucalyptus oil (i.e. 1,8-cineole) (Guzman, 1999).

Uses List

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Drugs, stimulants, social uses

  • Stimulants

Environmental

  • Boundary, barrier or support
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Soil conservation

General

  • Ornamental
  • Sociocultural value

Genetic importance

  • Gene source

Human food and beverage

  • Honey/honey flora
  • Spices and culinary herbs

Materials

  • Cosmetics
  • Essential oils

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Ornamental

  • Propagation material

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Although the species is widely known and valued as a culinary, medicinal and ornamental plant, more research is recommended on the extent of the species’ potential invasiveness to introduced environments to follow up on the limited data available. 

Bibliography

Top of page Boelens MH, 1991. Spices and condiments II. In: Maarse H (Ed). Volatile compounds in foods and beverages. New York, USA: Marcel Dekker, 449-480.

Greenhalgh P, 1980. Production, trade and markets for culinary herbs. Tropical Science, 22(2):159-188.

Halva S, Craker LE, 1996. Manual for northern herb growers. Amherst, Massachusetts, USA: HSMP Press.

Lawrence BM, 1997. Progress in essential oils. Perfumer and Flavorist, 22(5):71-83.

Prakash V, 1990. Leafy spices. Boca Raton, Florida, USA: CRC Press, 69-73.

Ravid U, Putievsky E, Katzir I, Lewinsohn E, Dudai N, 1997. Identification of (lR)(+)-verbenone in essential oils of Rosmarinus officinalis L. Flavour and Fragrance Journal, 12(2):109-112.

Small E, 1997. Culinary herbs. National Research Council of Canada. Ottowa, Canada: NRC Research Press, 517-524.

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Contributors

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04/12/2014 Updated by:

Marianne Jennifer Datiles, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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