African blue basil

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African blue basil
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Ocimum
Species: O. kilimandscharicum
Binomial name
Ocimum kilimandscharicum
  • Ocimum johnstonii Baker
  • Ocimum tortuosum Baker
African blue basil
Hybrid parentage Ocimum kilimandscharicum × Ocimum basilicum 'Dark Opal'
Origin Peter Borchard, Companion Plants, Athens, Ohio, 1983[2]

African blue basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum × basilicum 'Dark Opal') is native to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, and Ethiopia.[1]

It is one of a few types of basil that is perennial. It is a sterile hybrid of two other breeds of basil, unable to produce seeds of its own, and is propagated by cuttings.[2]

Ocimum kilimandscharicum has a strong camphor scent, inherited from Ocimum kilimandscharicum (camphor basil),[3] its East African parent.[2] The concentration of camphor is 22% (compared with 61% for O. kilimandscharicum). The concentration of the other major aroma compounds, linalool (55%), and 1,8-cineole (15%) is comparable to many basil cultivars.[4]

It has similarities to both Thai and sweet basil, yet has a flavor all its own. Its long, pink flowers also make a striking garnish. Although not yet widely known as a useful culinary herb, it shows potential for wider popularity. When added to a dish, it can taste like more than one herb has been used.

The leaves of African blue basil start out purple when young, only growing green as the given leaf grows to its full size, and even then retaining purple veins. Based on other purple basils, the color is from anthocyanins, especially cyanidin-3-(di-p-coumarylglucoside)-5-glucoside, but also other cyanidin-based and peonidin-based compounds.[4]

It blooms profusely like an annual, but being sterile can never go to seed. It is also taller than many basil cultivars. These blooms are very good at attracting bees and other pollinators.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  2. ^ a b c Pam Peirce, Special to The Chronicle (July 23, 2005). "PLANT OF THE WEEK: African blue basil; There's a new basil on the (foggy San Francisco) block". San Francisco Chronicle. pp. F–7. 
  3. ^ "Ocimum kilimandscharicum Baker ex Gürke". GRIN.  Gives as its source Econ Bot 28:63 (1974).
  4. ^ a b J. Janick (ed.), James E. Simon, Mario R. Morales, Winthrop B. Phippen, Roberto Fontes Vieira, and Zhigang Hao, "Basil: A Source of Aroma Compounds and a Popular Culinary and Ornamental Herb", reprinted from: Perspectives on new crops and new uses (1999), ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA, ISBN 978-0-9615027-0-6.