One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1An evergreen shrub which has glossy aromatic foliage and white flowers followed by purple-black oval berries.
Myrtus communis, family Myrtaceae (the myrtle family). This family also includes several aromatic plants (clove, allspice) and many characteristic Australian plants (such as eucalyptus trees and bottlebrushes)
- ‘When I moved into my bungalow about 20 years ago, I inherited a shrub which I was given to understand is a myrtle: it is a bushy evergreen with small, dark green, glossy, pointed leaves.’
- ‘When growing Mediterranean herbs, such as myrtle or bay, in containers, it is best to use a soil-based compost with extra grit.’
- ‘A heady, often impenetrable mix of shrubs, herbs and wild flowers, such as lavender, myrtle, marjoram and thyme, its elusive scent permeates everything from the wine to the honey.’
- ‘Between the ruins grew cypresses and oleanders, hibiscus, myrtle and wild roses.’
- ‘Within its protective cover, he built gleaming palaces and gardens perfumed with roses, jasmine and myrtle.’
2North American The lesser periwinkle.
Vinca minor, family Apocynaceae. See periwinkle
- ‘If you were daring, you might plant myrtle (periwinkle).’
Late Middle English: from medieval Latin myrtilla, myrtillus, diminutive of Latin myrta, myrtus, from Greek murtos.
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