Thymus (plant)

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Thymus vulgaris1.JPG
Thymus vulgaris
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Subfamily: Nepetoideae
Tribe: Mentheae
Genus: Thymus
Type species
Thymus vulgaris
  • Cephalotos Adans.
  • Mastichina Mill.
  • Serpyllum Mill.

The genus Thymus (/ˈtməs/ TY-məs;[3] thymes) contains about 350[4] species of aromatic perennial herbaceous plants and subshrubs to 40 cm tall in the family Lamiaceae, native to temperate regions in Europe, North Africa and Asia.

Stems tend to be narrow or even wiry; leaves are evergreen in most species, arranged in opposite pairs, oval, entire, and small, 4–20 mm long, and usually aromatic. Thyme flowers are in dense terminal heads with an uneven calyx, with the upper lip three-lobed, and are yellow, white, or purple.

Several members of the genus are cultivated as culinary herbs or ornamentals, when they are also called thyme after its best-known species, Thymus vulgaris or common thyme.

Thymus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) insect species, including Chionodes distinctella and the Coleophora case-bearers C. lixella, C. niveicostella, C. serpylletorum, and C. struella (the latter three feed exclusively on Thymus).


A considerable amount of confusion has existed in the naming of thymes. Many nurseries use common names rather than binomial names, which can lead to mix-ups. For example golden thyme, lemon thyme, and creeping thyme are all common names for more than one cultivar. Some confusion remains over the naming and taxonomy of some species, and Margaret Easter (who holds the NCCPG National Plant Collection of thymes in the UK) has compiled a list of synonyms for cultivated species and cultivars.[5]

The most common classification is that used by Jalas, in eight sections: [6]

  • Micantes: Iberian Peninsula and north Africa, includes T. caespititius
  • Mastichina: Iberian Peninsula, includes T. mastichina
  • Piperella: Monotypic section confined to the vicinity of Valencia, Spain
  • Teucrioides: Balkan Peninsula
  • Pseudothymbra: Iberian Peninsula and north Africa, includes T. cephalotos, T. longiflorus and T. membranaceus
  • Thymus: Western Mediterranean region, includes T. camphoratus, T. carnosus, T. hyemalis, T. vulgaris and T. zygis
  • Hyphodromi: Throughout the Mediterranean region, includes T. cilicicus and T. comptus
  • Serpyllum: The largest section, throughout whole region, apart from Madeira and Azores, includes T. comosus, T. doerfleri, T. herba-barona, T. longicaulis, T. pannonicus, T. praecox, T. pulegioides, T. quinquecostatus, T. richardii, T. serpyllum, T. sibthorpii and T. thracicus

Selected species[edit]


  1. ^ Linnaeus.Sp. Pl.: 590 (1753).
  2. ^ Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  3. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book. 1995. pp. 606–607.
  4. ^ "Thymus Linnaeus". Flora of China.
  5. ^ Easter, Margaret. "Thymus Synonyms". Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  6. ^ Jalas, Jaakko (1971). "Notes on Thymus L. (Labiatae) in Europe. I. Supraspecific classification and nomenclature". Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 64: 199–235.
  7. ^ Thymus x citriodorus - (Pers.)Schreb.. Plants for a Future.
  8. ^ USDA Thymus pulegioides


External links[edit]