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Ruta graveolens - Rue
Scientific Name: Ruta graveolens
Common Name: Rue, Herb of Grace
Thomas Jefferson listed rue among his "Objects for the Garden" 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
Rue is a shrubby, perennial herb with small, four-petaled flowers and showy, fragrant bluish-green leaves.
- Peggy Cornett, n.d.
- 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. Betts, Garden Book, 208. Manuscript and transcription available online at Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, Massachusetts Historical Society.
- 2. Joan Parry Dutton, Plants of Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1979), 151.
- 3. David Stuart and James Sutherland, Plants from the Past: Old Flowers for New Gardens (London: Penguin Books, 1989), 212.
- 4. Peter Hatch, "Herbs," Monticello Research Report, 4, 5; Dutton, Plants of Colonial Williamsburg, 151.