Thymus vulgaris is the source of the herb thyme. It is a native of southern Europe, although it now grows more widely both wild and in cultivation. The essential oil contains thymol, which is often included in pharmaceutical preparations as an antiseptic. The Thyme plant is a small, bushy sub-shrub that grows to around 45 cm tall. The grayish or green leaves are very small (4 to 8 mm long). The white, pink, or violet flowers are borne in rounded or ovoid terminal clusters.
(Vaughan and Geissler 1997)
Thyme is an insect-pollinated perennial, diploid plant. It is gynodioecious. i.e., natural populations include both hermaphrodite and female individuals. Hermaphrodites have large, protandrous (i.e., male parts mature first) flowers producing substantial amounts of both pollen and seeds; females have smaller, shorter-lived flowers with no stamens. Hermaphrodite Thyme plants produce significantly larger flowers than do females. The frequency of females in populations is highly variable. Thyme exhibits a pattern that is uncommon among gynodioecious plant species in that there is a combination of very high female frequency with hermaphrodites having significant female function (more typically, the hermaphrodites in gynodioecious species function largely as males).
(Manicacci et al. 1998; Ehlers and Thompson 2004)
- Author(s): Bodil Ehlers, K. and J.D. Thompson. 2004. Temporal variation in sex allocation in hermaphrodites of gynodioecious Thymus vulgaris L. (Lamiaceae). Journal of Ecology 92(1): 15-23.
- Manicacci, D., A. Atlan, J.A.E. Rossello, and D. Couvet. 1998. Gynodioecy and reproductive trait variation in three Thymus species. International Journal of Plant Sciences 159(6): 948–957.
- Vaughan, J.G. and C.A. Geissler. 1997. The New Oxford Book of Food Plants (revised and updated edition). Oxford University Press, New York.
It has been cultivated widely (USDA 2012), cultivated in Britain by 1548 and probably long before. In Italy it has been recorded up to elevations of 800 m (Flora Italiana 2012) but usually occurs at lower elevations. Reported in Spain at altitudes of up to 2,000 m (Blanca et al. 2009).
Questionably endemic to Europe; the status and origin of records from North Africa (Morocco), require confirmation.
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Habitat and Ecology
It is well adapted for growing in dry hot weather of the Mediterranean. It prefers light, permeable soil somewhat rich in organic matter and mineral fertilizing elements. The sandy soil found inland around the Mediterranean Sea is basic, low pH, and preferred by thyme (Blanca et al. 2009). However, it can also be found in similar climates around the world and is found in many gardens. The plant is hardy and has many adaptations to help it survive. The life cycle varies in the Mediterranean and mountainous areas.
adult of Chrysolina americana grazes on live leaf (at shoot tip) of Thymus vulgaris
Remarks: season: 5-6,9-early 4
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Thymus vulgaris
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Thymus vulgaris
Public Records: 9
Specimens with Barcodes: 9
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
The species is native to the western Mediterranean region from the Iberian Peninsula to Italy. Considered as Least Concern due to its widespread distribution, stable populations and no major threats. The species is questionably endemic to Europe, and further research is required to confirm the origin or records from North Africa.
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
There are no known threats to this species.
There are no conservation measures in place or needed however research is needed to confirm the natural distribution of the species. It is not known to have been assessed on any national Red List.
Thymus vulgaris (common thyme, German thyme, garden thyme or just thyme) is a species of flowering plant in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to southern Europe from the western Mediterranean to southern Italy. Growing to 15–30 cm (6–12 in) tall by 40 cm (16 in) wide, it is a bushy, woody-based evergreen subshrub with small, highly aromatic, grey-green leaves and clusters of purple or pink flowers in early summer.
It is useful in the garden as groundcover, where it can be short-lived, but is easily propagated from cuttings. It is also the main source of thyme as an ingredient in cooking and as an herbal medicine.
Numerous cultivars and hybrids have been developed for ornamental purposes. Nomenclature can be very confusing.  French, German and English varieties vary by leaf shape and colour and essential oils.  The many cultivars include 'Argenteus' (silver thyme). 
Notes and references
- L. H. Bailey; Manual of Cultivated Plants.
- M. Easter; International Thymus Register and Checklist.
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