Skip to main content
Select Source:

myrtle

myrtle, common name for the Myrtaceae, a family of shrubs and trees almost entirely of tropical regions, especially in America and Australia. The family is characterized by leaves (usually evergreen) containing aromatic volatile oils. Many have showy blossoms. Although of lesser importance in the United States, the family is of considerable economic value throughout the world for timber, gums and resins, oils, spices, and edible fruits.

The true myrtle genus (Myrtus) is predominantly of the American tropics, but the classical myrtle (M. communis) is native to the Mediterranean area. It is a strongly scented bush whose glossy leaves and blue-black berries were made into wreaths for victors in the ancient Olympic games. (In America several unrelated plants are also called myrtles, e.g., the sand myrtle of the heath family, the periwinkles of the dogbane family, and several species of the bayberry family.) Among the many trees of the myrtle family yielding edible fruit, only the guava (genus Psidium), native to tropical America, is grown commercially in the United States.

The most important spice plants of the family are the clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum or Eugenia caryophyllata), native to the Moluccas and the Spice Islands, and the tropical American Pimenta genus that includes the pimento or allspice (P. officinalis or dioica) and the bay rum tree (P. racemosa), source of an oil used as an ingredient of bay rum. Some hardwood members of the myrtle family are among the many trees known as ironwood, e.g., Eugenia confusa, of Florida and tropical America.

Eucalyptus, a large genus of evergreen shrubs and trees, is a characteristic component of the flora in its native Australia, where it is the leafy haunt and sole food source of the koala, often associated with it in story. Among its many common names are ironbark, bloodwood, and gum tree (a name also applied to many unrelated trees). Numerous species, especially the Tasmanian blue gum (E. globulus), are now naturalized in the W United States and have become the distinctive vegetation of many California areas that were previously treeless. In Australia several species are among the tallest trees known, e.g., E. regnans, known as the mountain ash or giant ash, the tallest flowering tree, which reaches a height of over 300 ft (91 m). The generally accepted record for the tallest mountain ash is 375 ft (114,3 m), for a tree that was felled in 1881. Eucalyptus trees are a valuable source of timber, of kinos (a resinous substance used in medicines and tanning), and of eucalyptol and other essential and medicinal oils.

The myrtle family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Myrtales.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"myrtle." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"myrtle." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/myrtle

"myrtle." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/myrtle

myrtle

myr·tle / ˈmərtl/ • n. 1. an evergreen shrub (Myrtus communis) that has glossy aromatic foliage and white flowers followed by purple-black oval berries. The myrtle family (Myrtaceae) also includes several aromatic plants (clove, allspice) and many characteristic Australian plants (eucalyptus trees, bottlebrushes). 2. the lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor). ORIGIN: late Middle English: from medieval Latin myrtilla, myrtillus, diminutive of Latin myrta, myrtus, from Greek murtos.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"myrtle." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"myrtle." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/myrtle-1

"myrtle." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/myrtle-1

myrtle

myrtle Any of numerous species of evergreen shrubs and trees that grow in tropical and subtropical regions, especially the aromatic shrub, Myrtus communis, of the Mediterranean region. Its leaves are simple and glossy; the purple-black berries, which follow the white flowers, were once dried and used like pepper. Family Myrtaceae.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"myrtle." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"myrtle." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/myrtle

"myrtle." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/myrtle

myrtle

myrtle † myrtle-berry XIV; plant of the genus Myrtus XVI. — medL. myrtilla, -us, dim. of L. myrta, -us — Gr. múrtos.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"myrtle." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"myrtle." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/myrtle-2

"myrtle." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/myrtle-2

myrtle

myrtle sacred to the goddess Venus, myrtle was used as an emblem of love.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"myrtle." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"myrtle." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/myrtle

"myrtle." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/myrtle

myrtle

myrtlebattle, cattle, chattel, embattle, prattle, rattle, Seattle, tattle •fractal •cantle, covenantal, mantel, mantle, Prandtl •pastel • Fremantle • tittle-tattle •startle, stratal •Nahuatl •fettle, kettle, metal, mettle, nettle, petal, Popocatépetl, settle •dialectal, rectal •dental, gentle, mental, Oriental, parental, rental •transeptal •festal, vestal •gunmetal •antenatal, fatal, hiatal, natal, neonatal, ratel •beetle, betel, chital, decretal, fetal •blackbeetle •acquittal, belittle, brittle, committal, embrittle, it'll, kittle, little, remittal, skittle, spittle, tittle, victual, whittle •edictal, rictal •lintel, pintle, quintal •Bristol, Chrystal, crystal, pistol •varietal • coital • phenobarbital •orbital • pedestal • sagittal • vegetal •digital • skeletal • Doolittle •congenital, genital, primogenital, urogenital •capital • lickspittle • hospital • marital •entitle, mistitle, recital, requital, title, vital •subtitle • surtitle •axolotl, bottle, dottle, glottal, mottle, pottle, throttle, wattle •fontal, horizontal •hostel, intercostal, Pentecostal •greenbottle • bluebottle • Aristotle •chortle, immortal, mortal, portal •Borstal •anecdotal, sacerdotal, teetotal, total •coastal, postal •subtotal •brutal, footle, pootle, refutal, rootle, tootle •buttle, cuttle, rebuttal, scuttle, shuttle, subtle, surrebuttal •buntal, contrapuntal, frontal •crustal • societal • pivotal •hurtle, kirtle, myrtle, turtle

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"myrtle." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"myrtle." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/myrtle-0

"myrtle." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/myrtle-0