From The Plant Encyclopedia
Lavendar, French Lavendar, English Lavendar
3 - 20
- Cultivation: Low-Maintenance, Easy-To-Grow
- Light: Sun
- Soil: Mid-Fertility
- pH: 7
- Moisture: Medium, Dry, Well-Drained
- Form: Shrub
- Habit: Evergreen
- Flower: Medium, Purple
- Fruit/Seed: Small
- Foliage: Leaves, Needles, Green
- Uses: Edible, Medicinal, Ornamental, Craft, Industrial
The lavenders (Lavandula) are a Genus of 39 species of Flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. An Old World genus, distributed from Macaronesia (Cape Verde and Canary Islands and Madeira) across Africa, the Mediterranean, South-West Asia, Arabia, Western Iran and South-East India. It is thought the genus originated in Asia but is most diversified in its western distribution.
The genus includes annuals, Herbaceous plants, Subshrubs, and small Shrubs. The native range extends across the Canary Islands, North and East Africa, Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, Arabia and India. Because the cultivated forms are planted in gardens worldwide, they are occasionally found growing wild as garden escapees, well beyond their natural range. However, since lavender cross-pollinates easily, there are countless variations within the species. The color of the flowers of some forms has come to be called lavender.
Popular Cultivated Species
English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia
The leaves are long and narrow in most species. In other species they are pinnately toothed, or Pinnate, sometimes multiple pinnate and dissected. Flowers are borne in whorls, held on spikes rising above the foliage. Flowers may be blue, violet or lilac. The calyx is tubular, with five lobes. The corolla is often asymmetric.
Nomenclature and taxonomy
Historically L. stoechas, L. pedunculata and L. dentata were described in Roman times (Lis-Balchin 2002). From the Middle Ages onwards, the European species were considered two separate groups or genera, Stoechas (LL. stoechas, pedunculata, dentata) and Lavandula (LL. spica, latifolia), until Linnaeus combined them, believing the name lavandula derived from the Latin 'lavare' to wash, referring to the use of infusions of the plants. He only recognised 5 species in the Species Plantarum (1753), L. multifida and L. dentata (Spain) and L. stoechas and L. spica from Southern Europe. L. pedunculata was included within L. stoechas.
By 1790 L. pinnata and L. carnosa were recognised. The latter was subsequently transferred to Anisochilus. By 1826 De Lassaras described 12 species in three sections, and by 1848 eighteen species were known.
One of the first modern major classifications was that of Dorothy Chaytor in 1937 at Kew. The six sections she proposed for 28 species still left many intermediates that could not easily be assigned. Her sections included Stoechas, Spica, Subnudae, Pterostoechas, Chaetostachys and Dentatae. However all the major cultivated and commercial forms resided in the Stoechas and Spica sections. There were four species within Stoechas (Lavandula stoechas, L. dentata, L. viridis and L. pedunculata) while Spica had three (L. officinalis (now L. angustifolia), L. latifolia and L. lanata). She believed that the garden varieties were hybrids between true lavender L. angustifolia and spike lavender (L. latifolia).
Currently Lavandula is considered to have 3 subgenera (Upson and Andrews 2004), Lavandula, Fabricia and Sabaudia. In addition there are numerous hybrids and cultivars in commercial and horticultural usage. A number of other species within Lamiaceae are closely related (Outgroups) including Ocimum gratissimum, Hyptis pectinata, Plectranthus barbatus and Tetradenia fruticosa.
The first major Clade corresponds to subgenus Lavendula, and the second Fabricia. The Sabaudia group is less clearly defined. Within the lavendula clade, the subclades correspond to the existing sections, but place Dentatae separately from Stoechas, not within it. Within the Fabricia clade, the subclades correspond to Pterostoechas, Subnudae, and Chaetostachys.
Thus the current classification includes 39 species distributed across 8 sections (the original 6 of Chaytor and the two new sections of Upson and Andrews), in three subgenera (see Table below).
Lavenders flourish best in dry, well-drained, sandy or gravelly soils in full sun. All types need little or no fertilizer and good air circulation; in areas of high humidity, root rot due to fungus infection can be a problem. Avoid organic mulches; use pea gravel, decomposed granite, or sand instead, as organics can trap moisture around the plants' bases, encouraging root rot.
Currently Lavandula is considered to have 3 subgenera (Upson and Andrews 2004), Lavandula, Fabricia and Sabaudia. In addition there are numerous hybrids and cultivars in commercial and horticultural usage. A number of other species within Lamiaceae are closely related (outgroups) including Ocimum gratissimum, Hyptis pectinata, Plectranthus barbatus and Tetradenia fruticosa. 
The most common "true" species in cultivation is the common or English lavender Lavandula angustifolia (formerly L. officinalis). A wide range of Cultivars can be found. Other commonly grown ornamental species are L. stoechas, (Spanish lavender) L. dentata (French lavender), and L. multifida (Egyptian lavender). Some species such as Lavandula stoechas are not winter hardy in temperate climates - USDA Zones 8-10).
The lavandins Lavandula × intermedia are a class of hybrids of L. angustifolia and L. latifolia. The lavandins are widely cultivated for commercial use, since their flowers tend to be bigger than those of English lavender and the plants tend to be easier to harvest, but lavandin oil is regarded by some to be of a lower quality than that of English lavender, with a perfume less sweet.
Though it has many other traditional uses in southern France, lavender is not used in traditional southern French cooking. In the 1970s, a herb blend called Herbes de Provence usually including lavender was invented by spice wholesalers, and lavender has more recently become popular in cookery.
Lavender lends a floral and slightly sweet flavor to most dishes, and is sometimes paired with sheep's-milk and goat's-milk cheeses. For most cooking applications the dried buds (also referred to as flowers) are used, though some chefs experiment with the leaves as well. Only the buds contain the Essential oil of lavender, from which the scent and flavour of lavender are best derived.
In the United States, both lavender syrup and dried lavender buds are used to make lavender Scones and Marshmallows.
Lavender is used extensively with Herbs and Aromatherapy.
English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) yields an essential oil with sweet overtones, and can be used in balms, salves, perfumes, cosmetics, and topical applications. Lavandin, Lavandula × intermedia (also known as Dutch lavender), yields a similar essential oil, but with higher levels of Terpenes including Camphor, which add a sharper overtone to the fragrance. Mexican lavender, Lavandula stoechas is not used medicinally, but mainly for landscaping.
Essential oil of lavender has Antiseptic and Anti-inflammatory properties. It was used in hospitals during World War I to disinfect floors and walls. These extracts are also used as fragrances for bath products.
According to folk wisdom, lavender has many uses. Infusions of lavender soothe and heal insect bites and burns. Bunches of lavender repel insects. If applied to the temples, lavender oil soothes headaches. In pillows, lavender seeds and flowers aid sleep and relaxation. An Infusion of three flowerheads added to a cup of boiling water soothes and relaxes at bedtime. Lavender oil (or extract of Lavender) heals acne when used diluted 1:10 with water, Rosewater, or witch hazel; it also treats skin burns and inflammatory conditions.
A recent clinical study investigated Anxiolytic effects and influence on sleep quality. Lavender oil with a high percentage of Linalool and Linalyl acetate, in form of capsules, was generally well tolerated. It showed meaningful efficacy in alleviating anxiety and related Sleep disturbances.
Flower spikes are used for dried flower arrangements. The fragrant, pale purple flowers and flower buds are used in Potpourris. Lavender is also used extensively as herbal filler inside sachets used to freshen linens. Dried and sealed in pouches, lavender flowers are placed among stored items of clothing to give a fresh fragrance and to deter Moths. Dried lavender flowers have become recently popular for wedding confetti. Lavender is also popular in Scented waters and sachets.