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Common Name: Heliotrope[1]

Scientific Name: Heliotropium arborescens

In 1786, while living in Paris, Jefferson sent seed of this species to Francis Eppes in America, commenting that it was "a delicious flower, but I suspect it must be planted in boxes & kept in the house in the winter. the smell rewards the care."[2] This flower was first discovered in Peru and brought to France sometime between 1735 and 1757 where it was a novelty much appreciated for its pleasant fragrance.[3] It was likely not widely cultivated in America before 1800.[4]

This plant is a garden annual with clusters of delicate, fragrant purple flowers fading to pale lavender in late spring through summer.


  1. This article is based on a Center for Historic Plants Information Sheet.
  2. Betts, Garden Book, 634.
  3. See Alice M. Coats, Flowers and their Histories (London: Black, 1968), 111-112. See also Denise Wiles Adams, Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants, 1640-1940 (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc., 2004), 219-220.
  4. See David Stuart and James Sutherland, Plants from the Past: Old Flowers for New Gardens (London: Viking, 1987), 147-148.

Further Sources


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