Myrtle - Myrtus communis

Myrtle - Myrtus communis

General information

Myrtle is a shrub known and appreciated for its medicinal qualities by almost all the ancient peoples of Europe. The myrtle has always populated a huge number of legends. In particular, myrtle is linked to the tradition of the cult of Venus. In fact, according to some, after the choice of Paris fell on her, the goddess wrapped her head with a myrtle crown. According to others, a myrtle bush covered the nakedness of the goddess who had just come out of the sea from the gaze full of greed of a satyr.

During the games eli, among the ancient Greeks, the victor's head was encircled with a myrtle crown. Most likely this custom must have been linked to the legend of Myrsine

Even among the ancient Romans the myrtle was extremely famous. According to legend, the Romans and the Sabines, after the famous rape, were reconciled thanks to the purifying power of the myrtle fronds.

During the Middle Ages they produced the famous water of the angels from myrtle flowers. At I sardi and I corso the very famous myrtle wine obtained from the fermentation of the berries.

It is still used in Germany as a propitiatory plant during weddings.

The myrtle is a plant that has a shrub or at most a small tree. This plant reaches, in fact, a maximum of three hundred centimeters in height.

The bark tends to change over time. In fact, in young specimens the bark is reddish over time the bark tends to become yellowish.

The leaves of the myrtle are opposite, very resistant, permanent, oval, acute, hairless and shiny. Superiorly they are dark green with numerous translucent spots in the vicinity of the aromatic ° glands. The flowers that come from this shrub are solitary, develop axillary, are very fragrant, have long penduncles. The myrtle flowers can take on various colors in fact they can be white or pink.

Myrtle is a shrub belonging to the myrtaceae family. This family is extremely large. The myrtaceae family, in fact, includes a hundred genera and up to three thousand species. This family is widespread almost all over the world. It is present in temperate, tropical and subtropical zones. They are naturally widespread throughout southern Europe (Greece, Mediterranean France, Italy and Spain). Also in some English and Irish areas mitigated by particular Atlantic currents.

This plant is very widespread, therefore, in the Mediterranean regions, in fact the myrtle is a particularly common plant in the Mediterranean scrub. However, the presence of this shrub in the high Mediterranean scrub is infrequent. Particularly famous are the patches of Sardinian and Corsican myrtle vegetation.


Fertilization is best done in spring. Basically the fertilization of the myrtle must be performed to ensure that the plant has a luxuriant development, rich in flowers and subsequently in fruits. To do this, it is essential to add nitrogen fertilizer to the soil, this will greatly help the plant. Furthermore, another very important fertilization is the potassium one which will give ad hoc nourishment throughout the spring.


The best way to grow a myrtle plant is the free-form bushy habit. In this way the plant will follow its normal course, forming continuous hedges, requiring no special pruning interventions. If, on the other hand, you want it to grow with a tall stem, like a sapling, the plant will need much more complex pruning and maintenance interventions. The use of a number of support systems made from poles and wires will be essential. Furthermore, the natural bushy bearing of the plant must be modified. Finally, to ensure an always exceptional flowering, prune only the old and dry branches, never the young and lively ones as those will host the flowers in spring.

The watering

Normally myrtle in nature does not need very large quantities of water as it is used to living in drought environments. The situation changes if you want to have a large number of flowers. In fact, a high yield of this plant is directly proportional to the amount of water that is given to it. In fact it would be impossible, with the berries grown in an environment lacking in water, the harvest of the fruit with the traditional methods as they are too small.

However, the frequency of watering remains quite moderate. In fact, only three or at most four waterings will be enough for the duration of the summer season to adequately nourish the plant. Alternatively, it is possible to proceed with micro-irrigations. Specifically, a series of more frequent irrigations with shifts that may vary according to the composition of the soil. The frequency can in fact vary from ten to fifteen days. This type of watering ensures better plant growth.

The climate

Myrtle is a plant that loves warm climates. It requires full sun exposure. The high temperatures for this shrub are not a problem, its true Achilles heel is the intense cold. To thrive in all its beauty, the climate of the environment in which it lives must never drop below five degrees.

The planting

Planting is a very delicate operation. After having created the space necessary to insert the plant in the ground, it will be necessary to put nitrogen and potassium-based fertilizers in the hole in order to ensure a safe rooting.

The multiplication

The most widespread multiplication method is certainly that of the semi-woody cutting to be carried out during the summer period. Once the seedlings have developed the rooting it will be necessary to carry out the potting individually, seedling by seedling. To plant them you will have to wait about a year.

The myrtle: Adversity

The myrtle fears the attacks of the cochineal and aphids. It is very important to get rid of it by means of specific disinfectants.

Spots have appeared on the myrtle leaves and tend to turn yellow

If these symptoms occur, the myrtle is almost certainly infected with fungi. Act promptly with specific disinfectants.

Grow myrtle

The myrtle (Myrtus communis) is a shrubby plant typical of Mediterranean vegetation, very widespread in Italy, particularly on the southern coasts, in Sicily and in Sardinia and has been present for centuries in the culinary and herbalist tradition of many Italian regions. Its officinal, balsamic and anti-inflammatory properties have been renowned since the Middle Ages.

This shrub is often mentioned in literature and poetry, from Archilochus to Virgil, up to Gabriele D'annunzio, and has always had a symbolic value, even if every culture has attributed different meanings to myrtle: erotic, auspicious, funerary.

Today practically only the typically Sardinian liqueur is known about myrtle, in reality the berries of this medicinal plant have different uses and even the younger leaves and branches are rich in aroma. Furthermore, the evergreen bush can have ornamental value in the garden or as a balcony plant. Being a spontaneous shrub it is very simple to grow and can also be kept in pots without requiring excessive attention.

The myrtle. The plant

Also known as Corsican pepper, it is a wild plant that can be easily grown at home, in pots, in the open ground or in aromatic hedges: leaves, flowers, stems and berries are very fragrant. The plant has a reddish bark that with the passage of time takes on a grayish color, the leaves are oval and pointed, leathery, shiny and dark-green in color, the flowers are white or pink. In the Botanical Garden of Pisa, you can admire an ancient specimen that gave its name to an area of ​​the garden called, precisely, the Orto del Mirto.

In ancient times, myrtle was a symbol of femininity. Protagonist of many myths, the Greeks connect it to that of the girl Myrsìne, killed after beating her peer in a gymnastic competition and then transformed by Athena into a myrtle shrub, while for the Romans it is connected to the goddess Venus, goddess of beauty , love and fertility: it was said that the goddess, just born from the foam of the sea, had taken refuge in a grove of myrtles.

Mainly used in the liquor industry, there are also varieties grown for ornamental purposes, such as the variegated variety Myrtus communis, with streaked leaves.

Myrtle: properties and characteristics

Due to its balsamic, antiseptic, astringent and anti-inflammatory properties, myrtle is used to treat problems of the respiratory system and digestive system: the liqueur produced from the berries, in fact, has digestive properties. But since medieval times - when the so-called Acqua degli Angeli was extracted from its flowers, still used today in skin care as a tonic and disinfectant - its phytocosmetic properties were also appreciated. Rich in essential oils (mirtolo, containing mirtenol and geraniol and other minor active ingredients), tannins and resins that make it a precious ingredient in herbal medicine.


  • 1 Description
  • 2 Distribution and habitat
  • 3 Needs and adaptation
  • 4 Varietal improvement for the industry
  • 5 Propagation
  • 6 Cultivation technique
  • 7 Collection
  • 8 Uses
  • 9 Gardening
  • 10 Curiosities
  • 11 Notes
  • 12 Bibliography
  • 13 Related items
  • 14 Other projects
  • 15 External links

The myrtle has a shrub or bush habit, 0.5-3 m tall, very branched but remains dense in old specimens reaches 4-5 m is an evergreen broad-leaved tree, has a very slow and long-lived growth and can become centuries-old.

The bark, reddish in the young branches, takes on a greyish color over time. It has opposite leaves, oval-acute, leathery, glabrous and glossy, of a dark green color above, with entire margins, with many translucent points in correspondence with the aromatic glands.

The flowers are solitary and axillary, fragrant, long pedunculated, white or pink in color. They have radiated symmetry, with a persistent gamosepalus chalice and dialipetala corolla. The androecium is composed of numerous stamens clearly evident due to the long filaments. The ovary is inferior, divided into 2-3 lodges, ending with a simple style, and a small stigma. The abundant flowering occurs in late spring, from May to June a rather frequent event is the second flowering which can occur in late summer, from August to September and, with warm autumns, even in October. The phenomenon is mainly due to genetic factors.

The fruits are globose-ovoid berries, bluish-black, dark red or more rarely whitish, with numerous kidney-shaped seeds. They ripen from November to January and persist for a long period on the plant.

It is a spontaneous species of the Mediterranean regions, common in the Mediterranean scrub. In Sardinia and Corsica it is a common shrub of the low Mediterranean scrub, typical of the xerophile phytoclimatic associations of theOleo-ceratonion. The presence of myrtle in the high scrub is less frequent.

Myrtle is a rustic plant but it fears the intense cold, it adapts quite well to poor and dry soils but takes advantage of both the summer water supplies and the availability of nitrogen, manifesting in favorable conditions a marked vegetative luxuriance and an abundant production of flowers and fruits. It grows preferably in soils with an acid or neutral reaction, in particular those with a granite matrix, while it suffers from soils with a calcareous matrix. It is a sclerophilous and xerophilic shrub.

There are numerous varieties grown for ornamental purposes such as Myrtus communis var. varied up to 4.50 m high, with leaves with elegant cream-white colored streaks and fragrant flowers, there are also shrubs that have white berries. We have selected dwarf varieties used for cultivation in pots or others with colorful and larger flowers. The economic interest that this species is enjoying in Sardinia started in the nineties a genetic improvement activity by the Department of Economics and Arboreal Systems of the University of Sassari, which selected over 40 cultivars until 2005. The main purpose of genetic improvement is the production of berries to be used for the production of myrtle liqueur, however a screening activity aimed at the production of essential oil is also underway.

The morphological, phenological and productive characteristics evaluated for the purpose of genetic improvement include the shape and size of the berries, the size of the seeds, the vigor of the plant, the pigmentation of the epicarp, a fundamental character for the production of the liqueur, productivity, the percentage of rooting (fundamental character for the multiplication by cuttings) and, finally, the predisposition to re-flowering, a character considered negative for the production of the berries.

Myrtle can be reproduced by cutting or by seed.

Reproduction is useful for cloning ecotypes or varieties of particular value to be used in intensive blueberries, because it allows to obtain vigorous and early plants, able to bear fruit already in phytocell after one year. To obtain acceptable rooting percentages it is essential to resort to techniques that increase the rhizogenic power, such as basal heating and treatment with rhizogenic plant growth regulators, and slow down the wilting of the cuttings, such as nebulization.

Reproduction by seed, due to its simplicity and very low costs, is recommended for an amateur activity to be performed in the home. Plants obtained from seed are less vigorous and hardly go into production before the age of four. Sowing must be done during the ripening period of the berries, in the months of December-January, as the seeds soon lose their germinative power. To make a small seedbed you can use a box to be filled with soil. The semi-withered berries are crumbled, evenly distributing the seed with a density of 3-4 seeds per square centimeter and covering it with a light layer of soil, after which you have to worry about watering frequently and moderately. The box should be kept in a sheltered environment, outdoors in mild winter regions, in a greenhouse in harsh winter areas. The seedlings should be transplanted into pots or phytocells with a capacity of half a liter when they have reached a height of 4-6 cm.

The myrtle liqueur is a product that until the nineties interested a niche market at a regional level, but subsequently the activity of the liqueur industry underwent a considerable expansion by promoting the product in the national market. The demand for raw materials, traditionally satisfied by seasonal harvesters in the Mediterranean scrub, has led to considerable anthropogenic pressure on the spontaneous vegetation, which is no longer able to support a large-scale activity.

Since the mid-nineties, therefore, the cultivation of myrtle in specialized plants is being promoted in Sardinia. The cultivation technique is in full evolution phase as it is still the subject of recent research in various fields, especially in relation to mechanization. In the early years of the millennium, the first directions, applied in experimental fields and pilot projects, have already emerged.

The planting of the mirteto is carried out with the same criteria applied in fruit growing and viticulture. The soil must be prepared with the burglary and the surface arranged with the complementary workings, on the occasion of which it is possible to evaluate the opportunity of a basic fertilization on particularly poor soils.

The planting layout most suitable for the mechanization of the crop is 1 x 3-3.5 meters, with an investment of about 3,000 plants per hectare. The plants, homogeneous in age and cultivar, should be planted in autumn or at the latest by the beginning of spring to facilitate liberation. One year old plants from a nursery can also be used, as they are able to provide a first production already in the second year.

The training system closest to the habit of the plant is the free bush form. With this system in a few years the plants form a continuous hedge that requires little pruning. The experiments conducted by the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Sassari have however identified in the sapling a form of farming more suitable for the mechanization of harvesting. With this system, the plants consist of a stem about 50 cm high with free foliage. In this case, more drastic systematic pruning interventions are required to correct the natural bushy bearing of the plant and the setting up of a support system based on poles and wires. As far as production pruning is concerned, there is still no sufficiently tested case history, however the natural behavior of the myrtle can give the first indications. The myrtle bears fruit on the twigs of the year, therefore pruning should be limited to interventions to contain development and rejuvenation, in addition to the removal of new basal shoots in the sapling system.

Due to its rusticity and the ability to compete, myrtle mostly requires the control of weeds with superficial processing in the inter-row, if a bush training system is adopted, and in the row in the first years and especially with the breeding to sapling. In the case of dry cultivation, the dry cultivation criteria are used with deeper workings in the inter-row to increase the reservoir capacity.

Myrtle responds positively above all to nitrogen fertilization as production is potentially correlated to spring vegetative development. The interventions must therefore be carried out in spring to increase the vegetative luxuriance. Nitrogen and potassium fertilization become essential to ensure a good nutritional level and contain any alternation phenomena if the branches are removed during the harvesting phase.

Irrigation is essential to ensure good yields. The species resists well to prolonged drought conditions and could also be grown in dry conditions, but the yields are quite low. The dimensions of the berries are also quite small and make harvesting with stripping or combing prohibitive. Three or four emergency irrigation interventions during the summer season can significantly improve the nutritional status of the plants and consequently the yields. The best results are naturally obtained with more frequent irrigation by adopting micro-irrigation systems with shifts of 10-15 days depending on the availability and the type of soil. Ordinary seasonal volumes can probably range from 1 000 to 3 000 cubic meters per hectare.

Traditionally, the collection in the bush is carried out by stripping or with the use of facilitating tools (combs equipped with containers for interception), the latter able to slightly increase the working capacity. A reckless practice is to cut the branches and let them wither for a few days in order to detach the berries with a simple shake. This technique is deplorable due to the serious environmental impact if repeated over the years: in an artificial plant it could be justified to reduce the costs of harvesting over large areas but in addition to offering a possible risk of alternation (not documented), it requires greater fertilization costs. to ensure adequate annual regeneration of the vegetation and avoid excessive soil depletion.

The Department of Land Engineering, Mechanization and Plant Engineering Section of the University of Sassari is experimenting with some prototypes for a possible mechanization of harvesting borrowed from other harvesting systems adopted in olive growing or viticulture. At present, the most accredited hypotheses foresee the use of straddle machines that carry out the shaking or combing with interception by means of nets.

Yields can vary significantly according to operating conditions. The actual yields in the maquis depend on the intrinsic characteristics of the floristic association, with particular reference to the percentage of coverage of the myrtle, the climatic trend of the season, and the pedological conditions. Tests conducted by the Department of Economics and Arboreal Systems of the University of Sassari and the Experimental Agricultural Regional Center of Sardinia in various stations on the island have found yields ranging from a few tens of kilograms to a maximum of 200 kg per hectare. In intensive planting, literature has not yet provided reliable indications, but yields could be around 4-6 t per hectare under irrigation with investments of 3,000-3,500 plants.

Due to its content in essential oil (mirtol, containing mirtenol and geraniol and other minor active ingredients), tannins and resins, it is an interesting plant with aromatic and medicinal properties. Balsamic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, slightly antiseptic properties are attributed to myrtle, therefore it is used in the herbal and pharmaceutical fields for the treatment of diseases affecting the digestive system and the respiratory system. A tonic lotion for eudermic use is obtained from the distillation of the leaves and flowers. The essential oil yield of myrtle distillation is quite low.

The most important product, from a quantitative point of view, is represented by the berries, used for the preparation of myrtle liqueur proper, obtained by alcoholic infusion of the berries through maceration or steam current. A less common liqueur is White Mirto, obtained by hydroalcoholic infusion of young shoots, mistakenly confused with a variant of the myrtle liqueur proper obtained by infusion of non-pigmented fruit varieties. The market price of the berries is around 1.8-2 euros / kg.

In the Sardinian gastronomic tradition, myrtle is an important condiment for flavoring some meats: the sprigs are traditionally used to flavor roast suckling pig, roast or boiled poultry, beef and above all sa taccula or grivia, a simple but refined dish based on boiled birds (thrushes, blackbirds, starlings). The use of myrtle as a flavoring for meat is not, however, an exclusive prerogative of Sardinians: the literature on the Web, for example, also reports references for other regional cuisines and for Spanish cuisine. Much rarer but no less tasty is the use of myrtle as a condiment for a risotto.

The abundant and suggestive flowering in late spring or early summer or the presence for a long time of the berries (bluish black or reddish or purplish red) in the autumn period make this plant suitable for reviving the colors of the garden as an isolated shrub, grown in bush or sapling. However, the most interesting use of myrtle as an ornamental plant is the hedge: in favorable environmental conditions it is able to form a dense medium-high hedge in a few years. The relatively small leaves and the remarkable vegetative regrowth capacity make it suitable for forming geometrically modeled hedges with shearing, but it can also be raised free-form and in this case exploit the suggestive spectacle offered first by flowering then by fruiting.

The "Orto del Mirto" is a sector of the botanical garden of Pisa, so named for the presence of an ancient specimen of myrtle. The phytocosmetic use of myrtle dates back to the Middle Ages: with the expression of Water of the angels, it indicated the distilled water of myrtle flowers.

The popularity enjoyed by this plant in Sardinia is remarkable to the point that this plant is the subject of consolidated customs. In autumn at the civic markets and street vendors you can easily find the myrtle berries ready to be put in maceration for the home preparation of the liqueur. The same liqueur has now become the digestive par excellence offered, often as a gift, in restaurants at the end of the meal. Finally, the sprigs of myrtle are very frequent as an ornament in the counters of butchers and rotisseries. Popularity has inspired research in recent years for new uses in the food sector which have not met with great success. In particular, iced tea with myrtle and ice cream flavored with myrtle are mentioned.

Myrtle is harvested by bees to obtain pollen. [3] It is not possible to produce myrtle honey as the myrtle does not produce nectar, as the flower has no nectars.

In ancient times, myrtle was a sacred plant to Venus, as it was believed that the goddess, just born from the foam of the sea, had taken refuge in a grove of myrtles. [4]

The phylogeny of the Myrtaceae family derives directly from the myrtle (Myrtus communis) which was evidently considered worthy of constituting the typical genus of the family. This condition clearly represents the centrality of European culture that has been achieved in the context of the Linnean botanical classification system and of the previous historical ones, in Greek and Latin classicism. In reality, the enormous complexity of the family, and its phylogeny, has a great botanical importance throughout the planet. There are very many genera and species of fruit or wood plants or medicinal shrubs or large trees, which are attributed to this family both of the desert and of the tropical forests of all continents. The only place where the family is represented by almost a single species, however of no fundamental importance, this is the place where the myrtle originates, and the species is the Myrtus communis.

  1. ^ (EN) Myrtus communis, on IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Version 2020.2, IUCN, 2020.
  2. ^ (EN) Myrtus communis, on The Plant List. Retrieved October 26, 2017.
  3. ^ (FR) Myrtus communis & Apis mellifera, in Florabeilles, 12 October 2012. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  4. ^Ovid, Metamorphosis, II, 234.

Proceedings of the Third Study Day on Myrtle Sassari 23 September 2005, Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Sassari, Coordinated by Prof. Maurizio Mulas

Description: Myrtle is an evergreen shrub, up to 3-4 meters high, densely branched. The bark is reddish, then gray, thin flaking. The leaves are simple, opposite, elliptical or lanceolate with pointed apexes, the upper side is glabrous, the lower side is more opaque and they are rich in aromatic glands. The white and fragrant flowers are carried by long peduncles at the axil of the leaves, they have five petals and numerous prominent stamens. The fruit is a black-cerulean berry when ripe, which, if attacked, gives off an intense aroma and contains small ivory-white seeds. It blooms from May to July and the fruit ripens in October-November.

Habitat and Ecology: Heliophilic and thermophilic, myrtle lives on any type of substrate and is a typical component of the Mediterranean scrub, even near the sea. In Palagianello it is present within the Mediterranean scrub on the sunny slopes and within the sparse pine forest.

Uses and Ethnobotany: Myrtle was a plant sacred to Venus and was considered, by the Greeks and Romans, a symbol of honor, beauty and heroic glory. The ancient Romans made a wine (myrtites) from it and used the fruit instead of pepper. With Christianity, the plant becomes propitiatory for the spouses' home. Myrtle, and in particular the leaves, were used in traditional medicine to treat diseases of the respiratory and urinary systems, thanks to their expectorant, astringent, balsamic and refreshing properties. Once the so-called "water of the angels" was obtained from the distillation of flowers, used as a cosmetic. From the infusion of ripe berries and sprouts, a digestive liqueur is obtained and the berries are also used to flavor roasts. The roots and the bark are used for the tanning of the hides, to which they give, among other things, a particular aroma. The very hard wood is excellent for lathe work.

Characteristics of Myrtle

Myrtle, which is more commonly called with the term mortella ', is an evergreen shrub, which has a very elegant profile from an aesthetic point of view.

We are talking about a plant that is not very thorny and with a decidedly compact habit, which manages to reach two meters in height extremely easily.

In any case, even if there are thousands of species belonging to the myrtle family, the myrtle is the only component of the myrtle, which is present within the European continent.

The other specimens of the same family, in fact, are extremely widespread in Austral and in most tropical regions.

The myrtle flowers are characterized by a typical creamy white color, which bloom, initially, from June to September, which have the particular characteristic of emitting a pleasant scent.

The fruits of myrtle, on the other hand, have the particular characteristic of ripening with the arrival of the autumn season.

Video: Common Myrtle Fruit Juice - Myrtus communis - شجرة الريحان