A range of flowers in Colins Paddock

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Wild flowers at Magog Down prev  :  next

Marjoram - Origanum vulgare

The pleasant way, as up those hills you climb,
Is strewed o’er with marjoram and thyme.

marjoramSo wrote George Withers in The Poet’s Home, and it was the abundance of marjoram in full bloom which captured my attention when I visited the Gog Magog Hills last summer. A member of the Labiatae, the Dead Nettle Family, marjoram is an aromatic, perennial herb, one to two feet tall, common in hedgebanks and rough grassland on chalky soils. Its branched stems end in clusters of two-lipped, rose pink flowers which help to brighten the Down from July to September.

The generic name “Origanum” (from two Greek words meaning “mountain joy”) will be immediately recognised by those who use oregano as a culinary herb. Although its cultivated Mediterranean cousins O. onites and O. majorana are more frequently used in the kitchen, our wild species nevertheless makes a good herb for use in meat dishes. As it dries it becomes sweeter and its range of uses thus increases.

Volatile oils, produced by glands on the leaves, give the plant the pleasant balsamic odour which led to its use in scented sachets and in the production of “sweet waters” for sprinkling about the house or for washing clothes. The oils are also the source of the plant’s many medicinal properties which made it greatly prized by the old herbalists. Marjoram tea was used to treat a range of afflictions from indigestion to bladder troubles, and a hot fomentation of the dried leaves was applied in bags to reduce the pains of rheumatism. Nor was the plant’s value confined to its culinary and medicinal uses. A dye made from its inflorescences was once used in the dying of wool and linen - the former taking a purple colour, the latter a reddish brown.

Given all these attributes it is small wonder that emigrants from Europe took marjoram with them across the Atlantic and it is now firmly established in the eastern states of America.

In classical mythology, marjoram is associated with the goddess Venus and in both Greece and Rome it was used to crown young couples on their wedding day. The Greeks also cherished a belief that the growth of marjoram on a grave augured happiness for the departed. So, if you want to make sure of Heaven, arrange to be buried on Magog Down!

David Yarham
November 2002


marjoram_view_453The photo above shows the upper Feoffee's Field paddock "strewed o'er" as the quote says with marjoram, while sheep graze in the lower paddocks as you look back down the hill towards Stapleford from Jane's Piece.marjoam_path_238

Watch out for it too alongside the paths on the Perimeter walk.

August 2017.

See also...

Report of the visit from Cambridge Natural History Society in August 2017


News about a visit by the local branch of Butterfly Conservation charity taking place in August 2016


News about the very special area of Colin's Bank, published in February 2015

Pasque Flower

One of our Friends sent us this beautiful picture of some Pasque Flowers taken in amongst the Cowslips in May 2016.pasqueflower_jb_may2016_crop_453

Photo by Jill Butler