Plant Lore-Thyme

Plant Lore-Thyme

THYME.—Among the Greeks, Thyme denoted the graceful elegance of the Attic style, because it covered Mount Hymettus, and gave to the honey made there the aromatic flavour of which the ancients were so fond. "To smell of Thyme" was, therefore, a commendation bestowed on those writers who had mastered the

Attic style. With the Greeks, also, Thyme was an emblem of

activity; and as this virtue is eminently associated with true courage, the ladies of chivalrous times embroidered on the scarfs which they presented to their knights, the figure of a bee hovering about a spray of Thyme, in order to inculcate the union of the

amiable with the active. In olden times, it was believed that

Thyme renewed the spirits of both man and beast; and the old herbalists recommended it is a powerful aid in melancholic and

splenetic diseases. Fairies and elves were reputed to be specially

fond of Wild Thyme. Oberon exclaims with delight;—

"I know a bank whereon the Wild Thyme blows,
Where Oxlips and the woody Violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with lush Woodbine.
With sweet Musk-Roses, and with Eglantine."

The fairy king's musical hounds would willingly forsake the richest blossoms of the garden in order to hunt for the golden dew in the flowery tufts of Thyme. Of witches is is said, that when they

"Won't do penance for their crime, They bathed themselves in Oregane and Thyme."

In the South of France, when a summons to attend a meeting of the votaries of Marianne is sent, it is accompanied by tufts of Wild Thyme, or Ferigoule, that being the symbol of advanced Republicanism.
Plant lore, legends, and lyrics: Embracing the myths, traditions ...
By Richard Folkard


(1) Oberon. I know a bank where the wild Thyme blows.

Midsummer Night's Dream, act ii, sc. 1 (249).

(2) Iago. We will plant Nettles or sow Lettuce, set Hyssop

and weed up Thyme.

Othello, act i, sc. 3 (324). (See HYSSOP.)

And sweet Time true.

Two Noble Kinsmen, Introd. song.

It is one of the most curious of the curiosities of English plant names that the Wild Thyme—a plant so common and so widely distributed, and that makes itself so easily known by its fine aromatic, pungent scent, that it is almost impossible to pass it by without notice—has yet no English name, and seems never to have had one. Thyme is the Anglicised form of the Greek and Latin Thymum, which name it probably got from its use for incense in sacrifices, while its other name of serpyllum pointed out its creeping habit. I do not know when the word Thyme was first introduced into the English language, for it is another curious point connected with the name, that thymum does not occur in the old English vocabularies. We have in ^Elfric's "Vocabulary," "Pollegia, hyl-wyrt," which may perhaps be the Thyme, though it is generally supposed to be the Pennyroyal; we have in a Vocabulary of thirteenth century, "Epitime, epithimum, fordboh," which also may be the Wild Thyme; we have in a Vocabulary of the fifteenth century, "Hoc sirpillum, Ace petergrys ;" and in a Pictorial Vocabulary of the same date, "Hoc cirpillum, Ace a pellek" (which word is probably a misprint, for in the "Promptorium ParvuloruVn,'' c. 1440, it is "Peletyr, herbe, scrpillum piretrum), both of which are almost certainly the Wild Thyme; while in an Anglo-Saxon Vocabulary of the tenth or eleventh century we have "serpulum, crop-leac," i.e., the Onion, which must certainly be a mistake of the compiler. So that not even in its Latin form does the name occur, except in the "Promptorium Parvulorum,'' where it is "Tyme, herbe, Tima, Timum—Tyme, floure, Timus;" and in the " Catholicon Anglicum," when it is " Tyme; timum epitimum ; ftos ejus est." It is thus a puzzle how it can have got naturalized among us, for in Shakespeare's time it was completely naturalized. ^

I have already quoted Lord Bacon's account of it under Burnet, but I must quote it again here: "Those flowers which perfume the air most delightfully, not passed by as the rest, but being trodden upon and crushed, are three — that is Burnet, Wild Thyme, and Water mints; therefore you are to set whole alleys of them, to have the pleasure when you walk or tread ;" and again in his pleasant description of the heath or wild garden, which he would have in every " prince-like garden," and "framed as much as may be to a natural wildness," he says, "I like also little heaps, in the nature of mole-hills (such as are in wild heaths) to be set some with Wild Thyme, some with Pinks, some with Germander." Yet the name may have been used sometimes as a general name for any wild, strong-scented plant. It can only be in this sense that Milton used it—,

"Thee, shepherd! thee the woods and desert caves,
With Wild Thyme and the gadding Vine o'ergrown,
And all their echoes mourn." Lycidas.

for certainly a desert cave is almost the last place in which we should look for the true Wild Thyme.

It is as a bee-plant especially that the Thyme has always been celebrated. Spenser speaks of it as "the bees,alluring Tyme," and Ovid says of it, speaking of Chloris or Flora—

"Mella meum munus ; volucres ego mella daturos
Ad violam et cytisos, et Thyma cana voco."

Fasti, v.

so that the Thyme became proverbial as the symbol of sweetness. It was the highest compliment that the shepherd oould pay to his mistress—

"" Nerine Galatea, Thymo mihi dulcior Hyblaa."

V1rg1l, Ed. vii.

And it was because of its wild Thyme that Mount Hymettus became so celebrated for its honey—" Mella Thymi redolentia flore" (Ovid). "Thyme, for the time it lasteth, yeeldeth most and best honni, and therefore in old time was accounted chief (Thymus aptissimus ad mellificum—Pastus gratissimus apibus Thymum est—Plinii, 'His. Nat.')

'Dum thymo pascentur apes, dum rore cicada?.'

V1rg1l, Georg.

Hymettus in Greece and Hybla in Sicily were so famous for Bees and Honni, because there grew such store of Tyme; propter hoc Siculum mel fert palmam, quod ibi Thymum bonum et frequens est."—Varro, The Feminine Monarchie, 1634.

The Wild Thyme can scarcely be considered a garden plant, except in its variegated and golden varieties, which are very handsome, but if it should ever come naturally in the turf, it should be welcomed and cherished for its sweet scent. The garden Thyme (T. vulgaris) must of course be in every herb garden; and there are a few species which make good plants for the rockwork, such as T. lanceolatus from Greece, a very low-growing shrub, with narrow, pointed leaves; T. carnosus, which makes a pretty little shrub, and others; while the Corsican Thyme (Mentha Requieni) is perhaps the lowest and closest-growing of all herbs, making a dark-green covering to the soil, and having a very strong scent, though more resembling Peppermint than Thyme.
The plant-lore & garden-craft of Shakespeare
By Henry Nicholson Ellacombe

Mr. John Mortimer followed with this short paper entitled "A Sprig of Thyme."


"How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers? "—Andrew Marvtll.

Among snowdrops, crocuses, polyanthuses, and primroses, that go to form a nosegay gift of homely February flowers, the gathered posy brought to me from an old-fashioned Staffordshire garden, I find some fragrant sprigs of thyme. The scent of it is grateful to the nostrils, and if I take one of these grey-green sprigs from among the scentless blooms and press it between the palms of my hands, as one does a spray of bog-myrtle, it leaves thereon a pleasant odour, subtly suggestive in its aromatic sweetness. It is reminiscent of grey old gardens, and, in a milder way, of hillside and pastoral solitudes, where its parent, the mother of thyme, finds habitation. The thyme of the garden plot is, as we know, to be reckoned among pot-herbs, and in such culinary associations it calls up visions of savoury flesh-pots. For this reason, it may be, the term vulgaris has been applied to it in botanical nomenclature. No well-ordered kitchen garden is without it, but best do I like to see it growing in the fair companionship of such flowers as here, in this posy, do keep it company. So, too, I take it, thought Louis Stevenson, when, in his address "To a Gardener," he said: —

"Friend, in my mountain-side demesne,
My plain-beholding, rosy green
And linnet-haunted garden ground,
Let still the esculents abound.
Let first the onion flourish there,
Rose among roots, the maiden-fair,
Wine-scented and poetic soul
Of the capacious salad bowl.
Let thyme the mountaineer (to dress
The tinier birds) and wading cress,
The lover of the shallow brook,
From all my plots and borders look."

Thyme, alike of the garden and the wilderness, is loved of bees, and from it they derive for their honey an added flavour. Mount Hymettus, we are told, was clothed with the attractive herb, and the honey extracted therefrom by Attic bees had a peculiar and much-prized quality of the aromatic kind. Of such delicate sweetness was it that the thyme from which it was extracted became typical of that quality in Greek literature which is known as the Attic style. Your poet strove to impart to his verse "the smell of thyme." So did Sophocles, for his grace of expression, come to be called the "Attic Bee." From the plantlore associated with it we learn, too, that " Thyme was an emblem of activity, and as this virtue is eminently associated with true courage, the ladies of chivalrous times embroidered on the scarfs which they presented to their knights, the figure of a bee hovering about a spray of thyme, in order to inculcate the union of the amiable with the active."

So much have I extracted from my sprig of thyme, hovering over it bee-like, and'now let me go on to say that my thyme-scented garden-posy came to me seasonably, inasmuch as it reminded me, in a sweet and supplementary way, of a little hill ramble which I had taken a day or two before, and about which there lingered in the memory a sense of fragrant garden herbs, early spring flowers, and other influences of a wilder kind. "Only lie long enough," says Hood, "and bed becomes a bed of thyme." The temptation to test the truth of that is with some of us a daily one, but this was a walk which necessitated early rising, and so it was from the early morning train that, in the first stage of my journey, I alighted at a little hill-foot station, about a dozen miles from town. Ab I passed through the wicket-gate and up the steep path which leads to the roadway, from the bough of a beech tree up there a full-throated throstle, looking down upon me, piped forth a melodious welcome. The air was crisp and fresh, and on the village of stone houses, grouped, cup-like, in a hollow of the hills, and on the upward-reaching slopes of pasture and moorland rising all about, there rested the tranquil beauty of the early morning sunshine. In the open space, with the village fountain in the centre, and upon which the tree-shaded church looks down, many roads do radiate to places high and low, and, taking the steepest of these highways, which leads to the moorland heights I love, I passed upward to that high curve where, among a cluster of stone houses, the workshop of my friend, the woodwright, is perched. I suspect that worthy gossip had seen me ascending the hill, for I found him in the roadway, lying in wait for me, and, as usual, eager for a little wayside talk. Coming to the footway with a cheery morning salutation, he took up his position by the low stone fence of a spacious patch of cottage garden, and, with his cap pushed back from his forehead so as to reveal his rugged, shining face full-fronted, and with his hands plunged deep into the pockets of his corduroy trousers, he began by remarking on the beauty of the day and the probability of its lasting. Then he passed on to discuss the mildness of the winter, the like of which was not within his memory. There had been little frost, and as for snow, certainly a ruck of it had fallen on one day, but it melted as it came. Evidences of the genial nature of the season were to be found in the cottage gardens, where wall-flowers had bloomed all the winter, and marigolds had kept open their golden eyes. The snowdrops had put in an early appearance, the crocuses had flamed up through the mould, primroses there were too, and the green spears of the daffodils were already well uplifted. As for the early snowdrop, I remember how l went to look for it in my I'leasaunce on the first day of the year, and how, in the waning misty afternoon, from beneath a dusky hedgerow in Sleepy Hollow, I gathered a solitary infantile flower. I remember, too, how, after gathering that first snowdrop, as I walked through the shadowy land where the ploughshare rested idly in the furrow and and peasant folk moved dreamily, I heard from far away, but clearly distinguishable, those sweet and solemn strains of music, to which are usually linked the words of the hymn which begins: —

"Sun of my soul. Thou Saviour dear,
It is not night if Thou be near,
O may no earth-born cloud arise.
To hide Thee from Thy servant's eyes."

In this hill-side garden-place, among its marigolds and primroses, there were breadths of thyme, and the woodwright drew my attention to it as another proof of the absence of nipping frosts. Then his thoughts took a medicinal turn in relation to the herb, and he said he had heard that in some form of drink it was good for folk who suffered from headache. A good many folk suffer from headache, but I don't think the woodwright was among them, or he would probably have known more about that herb-remedy. Among poets, Herrick knew the pain, and said to his lady : —

"My head doth ache,
O Sappho! take

Thy fillet;
And bind the pain
Or brine sumo banc

To kill it."

According to him the rosy God, Eros, is sometimes a victim, with this result to the physician: —

"I held Love's head while it did ache,
But so it chanced to be,
The cruel pain did his forsake,
And forthwith came to me."

In his erotic verse Herrick used many flowers and aromatic herbs, but I do not remember that thyme plays any part among them as an expression of the perfumed sweetness of Anthea, Julia, Sylvia, and the rest.

Regarding the medicinal properties of thyme, we are told that in old days "it was believed that thyme renewed the spirits of both man and beast; and the old herbalists recommended it as a powerful aid in melancholic and splenetic diseases."

From the consideration of herbs the woodwright's thoughts took a wider range, as he turned from the garden patch to look upon a broader prospect. From where his workshop stands there is a fine view of hills and valleys manifold, with the heathery moorland rising near enough to hear the grouse call to each other and the fretful pewit pipe wearily. With the white pigeons fluttering overhead in the sunshine, my friend discoursed variously, Ilia talk being mixed up in a scrappy way of reflections on men and things, with bits of country-side gossip, that sometimes fell upon the ear irrelevantly. I could not piece it together now, but I remember that it turned from things pastoral to huntings and carousals, with stories intermingled of people who had led riotous lives in hall and cot, and of fortunes that had been won and lost on horse racing or upon some such risky chances as the drawing of a long straw or a short one from a stack. One of his stories was of a wager depending upon the relative paces of a couple of snails, which, in a tricky incident belonging to it, reminded me forcibly of Mark Twain's story of " The Jumping Frog." In the course of his hunting talk he surprised me greatly by remarking, in a casual way, "We had a staghuut here the other day." Now, I know the country thereabouts pretty well, and was aware that there were deer in the neighbourhood; indeed, I was then on my way to look once more upon the herd in a distant corrie, but I was not aware that the antlered beauties of these parts were ever now-a-days pursued by horse or hound. Such was the fact, however, though the event, it seemed, was an occasional one, for my friend went on to relate the story of the stag-hunt with the descriptive power of one who had taken part in the chase. The victim, he told me, was a lonely stag, a pariah of the herd, one driven out by his fellows, who had taken refuge, beyond the boundaries, in a plantation of firs visible from where we stood. From there would the outcast go foraging in the neighbouring fields, to the discontent of farmers, and at night-time would visit the gardens and homesteads near where we were standing, a poor Autolycus, snapping up such unconsidered trifles as potato peelings. He was a fine stag though, the woodwright said, as he indicated his height above the roadway by a movement of his hand—a red stag, too— who could leap walls with ease, the loftiest of them, could even leap over that little hayshed across the way, were he so disposed. As my friend described his points, the lines of Scott's song came back again: —

"It was a stag, a stag of ten,
Bearing its brandies sturdily:
He came stately down the glen,
Ever sing hardily, hardily.

"He had an eye and he could heed,
Ever sing warily, warily:
He had a foot and he could speed—
Hunters watch so narrowly."

There was something pathetic, however, about that lone stag of the fir plantation,and one wondered if it was through sympathy that those two young fawns had been drawn to him, which the hunters found when they came to rouse the poor outcast from his hiding-place. The woodwright became eloquent as he described, with a sportsman's zest, the meet of the hunters and their hounds. There were redcoats there, and fair Dianas of the chase—a goodly sight—and when the quarry was up and the hunters and dogs were in full cry, it was a stirring business. With index finger he traced out the way the stag took, an upward one, leading over many stone fences of the hillside. Long and far was the hunt, the stag once, at least, being so close pressed by the dogs that he took to the water of a lake, and, at another point, made a great leap for life over a steep crag, but in the end, and it was a comfort to know it, he escaped from his pursuers. When the hue and cry had died down the homing instinct would bring him back to the shade of melancholy boughs again, there to have respite until another hunting day came round, for— though the deer knew it not—his ultimate fate had been decreed; he was not to be shot, but, if possible, the dogs were to be upon him at last.

When I had taken leave of the woodwright, as I passed on my upward way in the direction which the stag had first taken, my thoughts were very much occupied with that poor hunted creature. Among such afterthoughts came to me some lines, not altogether relevant perhaps, but linked to the subject by an association of ideas. They are Cowper's and describe that outcast feeling in which the poet was sometimes prone to indulge. He says: —

I was a stricken deer that left the herd

Long since; with many an arrow deep infixt

My panting side was charged, when I withdrew

To seek a tranquil death in distant shades,

There was I found by one who had himself

Been hurt by th' archers. In his side he bore,

And in his feet, the cruel scars.

With gentle force soliciting the darts

He drew them forth, and healed and bade me live.

Since then, with few associates, in remote

And silent woods, I wander, far from those

My former partners of the peopled scene,

With few associates, and not wishing more."

A robin, perched on a thorn tree by the wayside, his breast showing a bright spot of crimson among the brown twigs, warbled to me of the coming spring and of the time when leaves should be " large and long," as the Bobin Hood ballad has it, and the boughs should be white with May. With deep-chested music of a rougher kind did the keeper's dog, chained there to the cottage wall, salute me as he vainly strove to release himself from bondage. Along the cart-track, fringed with heather and bilberry, I reached the crest of the ridge, and then dropped down into the corrie where at times you may hear the curlew call and where the red-deer lie. I came upon the herd gathered close by the gate which gives access to the wood below. You remember how Kingsley, in one of his "North Devon Idylls," tells of the effect upon his artist friend, Claude Mellot, of such a sight seen there on Exmoor, above the gorge of Watersmeet, and how the cockney artist had tears in his eyes when the keeper showed him "sixty head of red deer all together." Well, here were at least as many, probably more, could one hare counted them, stags and hinds, proud antlered beauties that I go to see again and again. Children of the mist, too, were they, as I saw them on a former day, when all the corrie was filled with moving vaporous clouds, out of which they were revealed under such picturesque and shadowy conditions as would have delighted the eye of an artist. I remember, too, how the mist, which hung low, in its partial clearing showed above it a belt of pines, saw-edged and ragged. In the wood the cloud-wreaths trailed among the tree-boles in a ghost-like fashion, giving to that vernal place a strangely weird aspect. On this later day, the air being clearer, as I passed through, I could see far down the sunglinted aisles, whose soft carpet of turf was reddened with fallen beech leaves and rusted bracken.

There is little left to tell save that when I had passed from the deercorrie through the shadow of the wood to smoother-pastured places, I wended my way, by gated cart-tracks that led me towards the plain. Near where the track crosses a brook in a wooded hollow there stands within a grey old garden an ancient stone house with mullioned windows, upon whose gabled chimney-stack was perched a glossy starling, who, with gaping beak, was inhaling the blue smoke that "reeked from the lum," seeming the while like one saying to himself, "O diviner air." Beyond the hollow is a steep green lane, with goldentipped gorse bushes straggling into it from the hedgerows, and further, again, cottages with gardens, in which I noticed the full-flowered purple Daphne Hezereon. After this came the prosaic railway-station and the townward-tending train.

In recalling the incidents which I have here roughly written down they have been to me thyme-scented memories, but, beyond this, there is in such communings with nature that sense of something far more deeply interfused—

"Whose sweet-smelling presence
Out-perfumes the thyme."
Papers of the Manchester Literary Club, Volume 24
By Manchester Literary Club

Wild or Creeping Thyme

(Thymus Serpyllum) Mint family

Flowers^-Very small purple or pink purple, fragrant, clustered at ends of branches or in leaf axils. Hairy calyx and corolla 2lipped, the latter with lower lip 3-cleft; stamens 4; style 2cleft. Leaves: Oblong, opposite, aromatic. Stem: 4 to \2 in. long, creeping, woody, branched, forming dense cushions.

Preferred Habitat—Roadsides, dry banks, and waste places.

Flowering Season—June—September.

Distribution—Naturalized from Europe. Nova Scotia to Middle

"I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows;
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine.
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine."

—A Midsummer Night's Dream,

According to Danish tradition, any one waiting by an elderbush on Midsummer Night at twelve o'clock will see the king of fairyland and all his retinue pass by and disport themselves in favorite haunts, among others the mounds of fragrant wild thyme. How well Shakespeare knew his folk-lore!

Thyme is said to have been one of the three plants which made the Virgin Mary's bed. Indeed, the European peasants have as many myths as there are quotations from the poets about this classic plant. Its very name denotes that it was used as an incense in Greek temples. No doubt it was the Common Thyme (7. vulgaris), an erect, tall plant cultivated in gardens here as a savory, that Horace says the Romans used so extensively for bee culture.

Dense cushions of creeping thyme usually contain two forms of blossoms on separate plants—hermaphrodite (male and female), which are much the commoner; ana pistillate, or only female, flowers, in which the stamens develop no pollen. The latter are more fertile; none can fertilize itself. But blossoms so rich in nectar naturally attract quantities of insects—bees and butterflies chiefly. A newly opened hermaphrodite flower, male on the first day, dusts its visitors as they pass the ripe stamens. This pollen they carry to a flower two days old, which, having reached the female stage, receives it on the mature two-cleft stigma, now erect and tall, whereas the stamens are past maturity.
Nature's garden: an aid to knowledge of our wild flowers and their insect ...
By Mrs. Nellie Blanchan (De Graff) Doubleday, Neltje Blanchan

4. Thymus (Thyme). 1. T. Serppllum (Wild Thyme).—Flowers in heads or whorled; stems branched, hairy ; leaves flat, egg-shaped, blunt, more or less fringed at the base, stalked; floral leaves similar; upper lip of the corolla notched; root perennial. Those who love to wander over breezy hills, where the sheep are scattered far and wide about the landscape, well know the Wild Thyme. During July and August, many an open lonely tract of our scenery is purpled over with its flowers, which are bringing fragrance to wide-spread heath, or grassy moorland, or sunny bank, or chalky sea-cliff, and forming aromatic tuft-like cushions, on which the rambler may repose to listen to murmuring bees and low whispering airs. Often as we have gone over such hills on some Sabbath morning, summoned by the weleome bell to the House of Prayer, we have, as we looked on the flock, been reminded of the shepherd's boy whom Graham describes as watching his sheep, on the thymy hills of Scotland:—

"Nor yet less pleasing at the Heavenly Throne
The Sabbath service of the shepherd boy,
In some lone gleu where every sound is lull'd
To slumber, save the tinkling of the rill,
Or bleat of lamb, or falcon's hovering cry j
Stretch'd on the sward he reads of Jesse's son,
Or sheds a tear o'er him to Egypt sold,
Ami wonders why he weeps; the volume closed,
With thyme-sprig laid between the leaves, he singB
The sacred lays, his weekly lesson, conn'd
With meikle care, beneath the lowly roof
Where humble lore is learnt.
Thus reading, hymning, all alone, unseen,
The shepherd boy the Sabbath holy keeps."

So refreshing is the perfume of the Thyme, that we wonder not that the old Greeks gave to the plant a name expressive of strength or courage, in the belief that it renewed the spirits both of man and animals, though they certainly ascribed to the slightly tonic and stimulating properties of the herb a higher praise than they deserved. Thyme tea is yet in good favour in villages, and many a tuft of the closely allied garden Thyme is still to be seen on the cottage plot, and is gathered for that purpose. Often, too, perhaps, it is looked upon by some moralizing matron, to whom it is significant of the mingled weal and woe of daily life, as she remembers the old proverb, " Rue and thyme grow baithe in a garden." The plant was, in the opinion of our fathers, " a noble strengthener of the lungs, as notable a one as grows;" and in some of the earliest manuscripts of this country, it was recommended for those who were " streyt ondyd," that is, short-breathed.

Besides its use as an infusion, and in various liquid preparations, an ointment was made from Thyme blossoms which was considered very healing. The leaves bruised, and laid upon the part stung by a bee or wasp, were thought to allay the irritation. Parkinson says of this herb: "Thyme is a speciall helpe to melancholicke and splenetickc disease. The oyle that is chymically drawne out of ordinarie thyme is used, as the whole herbe is, in pils for the head and stomacke. It is also much used for the tooth-ache, as many other such-like hot oyles are." The substance now sold as a remedy for tooth-ache by the name of Oil of Thyme, is made, however, from the Marjoram. Mr. Purton, whoso medical, as well as botanical science, renders him a good authority in such matters, considers an infusion of the leaves of wild Thyme good for head-ache, and says it is reputed to be an infallible cure for nightmare; and Linnseus recommended its use for pains in the head. The plant yields camphor by distillation, and an infusion of its leaves may probably be taken with advantage by nervous persons. Bees are very fond of its flowers, and these are very pretty, in their deep purple tint, varying to pale lilac, and clustering amid their chocolate-coloured floral leaves. The plant is common on dry places in most European countries, and it forms a thick turf on some of the fields of Iceland, among which the whortleberries, bearberries, and cranlwrries flourish in abundance; while with its frequent companion, the Marjoram, it grows on the Himalayan mountains of India, at the height of 8,200 feet above the sea. The Germans call this plant Thimian; the French, Thym; the Dutch, Gemeene thym; the Italians, Teino; the Spanish, Tomillo; the Poles, Tym, and the Danes, Timian. The old French writers term it Pouliot-thym, and Pillolet, and it was formerly called in this country, Puliall Mountaine, Pella Mountaine, and had besides the names of Running Thyme, Creeping Thyme, Mother of Thyme, and Shepherd's Thyme. Its leaves laid near the resorts of mice are said to drive these animals from the place.

Old writers, both in prose and verse, tell how sheep are improved by feeding upon Thyme; but the fact is, that these animals, except by accident, or when driven by hunger, leave untouched the aromatic herbs supposed to be so beneficial to them. But the Thyme grows on downs and commons where the air is pure and bracing and the pasturage sweet; and sheep seem to have been destined rather for hilly and mountainous, than for lowland pastures and turnip fields, though they can be accommodated to the latter conditions.

The wild Thyme varies much in different situations, not only in the degree of hairyness of its stems and leaves, but also as to size and odour. Sometimes, instead of the dark green glossy foliage, we find specimens with leaves white with down, and occasionally the flowers are white. When growing on dry exposed situations it is small and prostrate, but when beneath the shelter of furze or broom it has a stalk a foot or more high.

Mr. Babington has recently expressed his opinion that two species of Thyme are included in that described as serpyllum; one is T. Chamcedrys, the other the true T. Serpyllum, but as the difference is chiefly in their habit of growth, they require to be examined while growing. He remarks, " In T. Serpyllum there is a difference between the flowering shoot and that intended to extend the plant. Quite prostrate and rooting shoots are produced each year, which grow from the end of the shoots of the preceding year, and do not flower; also there spring from the other axils of these old prostrate parts of the plant short erect or ascending shoots, which form a linear series, and each of which terminates in a capitate spike, consisting of a very few whorls, and which die back to the base after the seed has fallen. The growing shoot is perennial, but the flowering shoot is annual. In T. Chamcedrys there is no such manifest separation between the flowering and young shoots. The terminal bud often produces the strongest shoot, which itself ends in flowers, differing thus from the terminal shoot of T. Seipyllum, which always ends in a flowerless shoot. It wants the regularity of T. JSerpyllum, and presents a dense irregular mass of leafy shoots and flowers intermixed."

The garden Thyme is a native of Southern Europe; it is largely cultivated in. herb gardens for the London market. It has the same qualities as the wild Thyme, yielding camphor in distillation with water. It is in Spain infused in the pickle used to preserve olives, and before the introduction of Oriental spices entered largely into the cookery of all European countries.
The flowering plants of Great Britain, Volume 3
By Anne Pratt