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Garden Thyme

Common Name: Thyme[1]

Scientific Name: Thymus vulgaris

Thyme was one of the herbs brought to the American colonies at an early date, and Thomas Jefferson records it as one of the "objects for the garden" in 1794.[2]George Divers of Farmington sent thyme to Jefferson, at his request, on February 28, 1820.[3] While President, Etienne Lemarie bought Basil and thyme at the Washington market.[4]Martha Jefferson Randolph has thyme listed as one of the ingredients for her okra soup and vegetable porridge.[5] Also, Mary Randolph's recipe for beef soup in her book, Virginia House-Wife (1824) includes thyme.[6]

Thyme has been grown in gardens since at least the time of the Assyrians, who recommended its use for the short-winded, or for those who suffered from nightmares or the falling sickness. It also was known for treating tooth-aches.[7] David Stuart and James Sutherland speculate that the Romans brought it to Britain.[8] The earliest British citation dates back to the 1500s, but it was probably grown long before this date.[9]

Although it is considered a perennial, thyme is a dwarf shrub that can creep and root along the stems, eventually covering large areas. It is most often used as a culinary herb. This is a hardy evergreen, low-growing, late-spring flowering herb with tiny flowers in shades of pink to rose color and dark green, highly fragrant foliage.


  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. Ibid, 591.
  4. Peter Hatch, "Herbs," Monticello Research Report, 4.
  5. "Cookbook of Martha Jefferson Randolph", University of Virginia.
  6. Randolph, Virginia House-Wife (Baltimore, Plaskitt, Fite, 1838), 14.
  7. Hatch, 4.
  8. Stuart, David and James Sutherland, Plants from the Past: Old Flowers for New Gardens (London: Penguin Books, 1989), 223.
  9. Joan Parry Dutton, Plants of Colonial Williamsburg(Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg, 1979), 157.

Further Sources


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