How to Identify Rosemary

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a shrub that is native to Asia and the Middle East. This herb does well in a Mediterranean climate due to the fact that it can survive both floods and drought. Certain varieties of rosemary are native to parts of the United States as well. The stems and needles of the rosemary plant are used primarily for cooking fish or meats and as a spice for savory dishes. Other uses include medicinal and decorative. Sometimes rosemary plants are trimmed to resemble Christmas trees or are cut into other shapes to use in landscaping. Learn how to identify rosemary at the local garden shop or perhaps the one growing naturally in your backyard.


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    Measure the rosemary. Upright forms of rosemary can grow to 5 feet (1.5 m). (1.5m) in height. There are trailing forms of rosemary as well which grow low and spread on the ground.
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    Look for plants that resembles a short pine tree with a fat trunk and smaller, long, thin branches which grow straight up into the air from the trunk. However, the lower branches tend to droop to the ground unless they are pruned.
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    Look for stems which are woody and have a scaly gray bark.
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    Measure the needles of the plants. Their lengths vary from 0.8 to 1.6 inches (2 to 4 cm) long.
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    Check that the long, thin needles start forming about a quarter of the way up from the base of the branch and grow densely, pointing upwards.
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    Look for needles that are dark greenish gray in color with a vein in the center of each needle. Healthy rosemary needles remain green all year.
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    Look at the bottom of the needles for the silver color underneath. Check that the edges curl downwards. The undersides of the needles are somewhat fuzzy to the touch.
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    Smell the foliage. Rosemary has a woodsy pungent aroma. Some think it has tones of pine and lemon. A hint of camphor might be detected. There is a resinous quality to the fragrance which is quite distinctive and remains on your hands when you pull the needles from the stem.
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    Look for white, blue, pink or purple flowers in clusters at the tips of the branches. Most rosemary blooms in the summer in mild climates, but plants growing where the winters are warm may bloom year round.
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    Attempt to identify fresh rosemary in the store. Look for stems, sometimes still attached to the roots, where the needles are green and have a strong aroma, which indicate freshness.


  • There are many different types of rosemary. Examples include arp, which has light green leaves and smells like lemon. Blue boy is a dwarf type of rosemary. Irene is a trailing variety. Salem is winter hardy and has blue blooms. Severn Sea is a low-growing spreader with deep purple flowers.

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Categories: Herbs and Spices | Botany