Thomas Jefferson listed rue among his "Objects for the garden this year" in 1794.1 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.2 It was established in American gardens before the Revolutionary War due to its medicinal uses.3 It was used for antidote to poisons, animal bites and insect stings, and mixed with lavender, rosemary, sage, wormwood, and mint. This mixture added fragrance to the air, especially valued for the homes of the sick.4
Also known as Herb of Grace, rue is a shrubby, perennial herb with small, four-petaled flowers and showy, fragrant bluish-green leaves.
Typical Blooming Dates: Summer
Growth Type: Herbaceous Perennial
Herb Color(s): Yellow
Location at Monticello: Monticello Vegetable Garden
Planting Conditions: Full Sun
- Coats, Alice M. Flowers and Their Histories. London: Black, 1968.
- Leighton, Ann. American Gardens in the Eighteenth Century. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986.
- McMahon, Bernard. The American Gardener's Calendar, 1806. Charlottesville: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 1997. See pp. 198 and 454.
- Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants.
1. Garden Book, 1766-1824, page 28, by Thomas Jefferson [electronic edition], Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2003). See also Betts, Garden Book, 208.