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Common Name: Rue, Herb of Grace[1]

Scientific Name: Ruta graveolens

Jefferson listed Rue among his "Objects for the Garden" in 1794.[2]. The seeds for the plant were offered by Bernard McMahon in 1804. In spite of its curious smell, Rue was eaten in ancient times to preserve the eyesight, especially for artisans like painters and carvers who needed their sight for their livelihood.[3] It was established in American gardens before the Revolutionary War due to its medicinal uses.[4] It was used for antidote to poisons, animal bites and insect stings, and mixed with lavender, rosemary, sage, wormwood, and mint, this mixture add fragrance to the air, especially for the homes of the sick.[5]

Rue is a shrubby, perennial herb with small, four-petaled flowers and showy, fragrant bluish-green leaves.


  1. This article is based on a Center for Historic Plants Information Sheet.
  2. Betts, Garden Book, 208. Manuscript and transcription at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
  3. Joan Parry Dutton, Plants of Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg, 1979), 151.
  4. David Stuart and James Sutherland, Plants from the Past: Old Flowers for New Gardens (London: Penguin Books, 1989), 212.
  5. Peter Hatch, "Herbs," Monticello Research Report, 4,5; Dutton, 151.

Further Sources


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