M. communis is a bushy medium-sized evergreen shrub with small, aromatic, ovate leaves and profuse white flowers 2cm in width, followed by purplish-black berries
Associated with Birth, Marriage, and actually Death, but we won't talk about that, shall we
This Mediterranean shrub has been well known in our gardens since the 16th century. To many cultures it represents 'The Tree of Life' a reflection of its ceremonial use in society.
This began with the Ancient Greeks using the aromatic foliage to crown judges and magistrates as well as ceremonially at the Olympic Games. From these humble origins the cult of myrtle grew to become a plant sacred to the goddess of love (Venus, Aphrodite), it was even reputed to make love grow and sustain it. By the Middle Ages it was deeply embedded in the beliefs surrounding marriage, fertility and erotic love. As such it was often seen in bridal wreaths and head dresses and it is still used by many faiths for this purpose today. Interestingly since the time of Queen Victoria all royal brides in Britain have had a sprig of myrtle in their wedding bouquet.
In milder regions myrtle bushes were also planted to celebrate the birth of a child.
The foliage and flowers are the source of a fragrant oil 'Eau d'Ange' used in perfumes and medicines.