All About Lavender
At Mesa Lavender Farms®, lavender is the central part of our company’s story. In the beginning, lavender was the main inspiration for our company’s creation and we continue to have a lot of our products containing lavender. Co-founder and artist Kate Keaney has always had a special connection with the plant. She loved lavender paintings like those by Vincent Van Gogh which were a huge inspiration for her. She was glad the day came when she could spread the joy lavender ignited in her own life to the lives of others as well through Mesa Lavender Farms.
Mesa Lavender Farms® was created when Kate teamed up with Dr. Curtis Swift. Swift is an expert on the plant and had been growing and conducting research on it for years. They combined their unique set of skills together, and haven’t regretted a single day since. So, today on the blog, we’d like to talk about the types of Lavender and some of the aspects of Lavender farming. Finally we’d like to share a brief history of the plant for our readers.
All About Lavender: The many types
Family – Lamiaceae – Mint Family
Genus – Lavandula – this name is italicized with the first letter capitalized
Species – There are 47 known species to include angustifolia, latifolia, stoechas, x intermedia, dentata, and multifida – Species names are italicized and not capitalized
Varieties and cultivars – about 2,300 – these names are in single quotes with the first letter capitalized such as ‘Folgate’
There are many different species and cultivars of lavender commonly referred to as English, French, Portuguese, True, and Spanish lavender to name only a few. These are common names and sometime the same lavender plant is called a different name confusing the issue. For example, cultivars of the species Lavandula stoechas are referred to as Spanish, French and topped lavender, while cultivars of the species Lavandula angustifolia are also referred to as French lavender in addition to True and English lavender. Because of the confusion common names create it is best to refer to the species and cultivar by their scientific name to ensure everyone knows what you are taking about.
The name of several cultivars of Lavandula x intermedia contain the word Spike such as ‘Fat Spike’ Lavender. Yet the species of lavender Lavandula stoechas is also know as Spike lavender. So if one is looking for the essential oil of spike lavender what exactly are they looking for. Are they looking for the oil from Lavandula stoechas or one of the cultivars of Lavandula x intermedia? The oils are extremely variable.
To confuse things more, there are hybrids of Lavender called Lavandins. These are crosses of Lavandula latifolia and Lavandula angustifolia. These hybrids are referred to as Lavandula hybrida and Lavandula x intermedia. The x in the second name indicates a ‘cross’.
You will note the Botanical (scientific) names are in italics. The cultivar names are in single quotes such as ‘Grosso’. The cultivar names are not italicized. Each of the cultivars can smell slightly different depending on the concentration of the various chemical components in their oil. At last count, there were 2,300 different named cultivars of the genus Lavandula.
The term cultivar refers to the fact these are cultivated varieties produced by selective breeding. They are propagated by cuttings so each plant is identical. Cultivars are not ‘true-to-type’ or ‘true-to-seed’ in other words they will not produce a plant with the same characteristics as the parent plant if produced from seed. Lavandins, being hybrids don’t produce seeds and must be propagated by cuttings. Lavandula angustifolia plants produce seed and any of their seedlings may have different genes when compared with their parent plant. There are a few angustifolia cultivars which come which do retain their genetics when started from seed as long as cross-pollination from a different cultivar hasn’t occurred.
All About Lavender: History
In ancient times lavender had a multitude of purposes. The Romans used lavender for bathing while the Egyptians used it for mummification. Historians have strong evidence the word lavender comes from the Latin verb, “lavare” which means to bathe. The Greek botanist, Dioscorides (c. 40–90 AD) noted lavender had beneficial effects when prepared as a tea. He was probably referring to L. angustifolia as this lacks the bitter taste of camphor found in several other Lavandula species. Also, a man of many trades, Pliny the Elder, (AD 23/24 – 79) mentioned lavender due to its ability to soothe people who were in grief.
Hildegard of Bingen of the high middle ages, claimed the strong odor of lavender was great for repelling pests and killing lice. She also mentioned lavender could frighten away nefarious spirits. Regardless of whether these spirits are real or not, there is no doubt peoples of different time were well aware of the strength and power of lavender.
All about Lavender: Climate
Lavender grows in many different regions and countries in the world. Some of these places are remarkably unique from one another like England and Egypt. However, the majority of data recorded over time indicates the ideal climate for lavender is a Mediterranean climate. The plant does best in temperatures that range from 66-86 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the plant is susceptible to mold and fungal diseases, it is best to grow lavender in climates with minimal rainfall. Some species can tolerate cold winters such as L. angustifolia while others like L. stoechas is not winter hardy. Individuals living in different climates and even different elevations need to take account of their weather conditions before selecting the species best for their location. Even different cultivars of the same species have different levels of winter hardiness.
All about Lavender: How is Lavender essential oil made?
When Lavender is harvested, the most common method of extracting essential oil is by steam distillation. The oil is extracted by filling a chamber full of fresh or dried lavender. The chamber is packed full leaving no room for air, and the chamber (basket) is placed over boiling water. As stream moves through the flowers and other plant tissues, it removes the essential oils and carries it up into a condenser where the lavender essential oil condenses back into a liquid form. The floral water (hydrosol) and oil are then separated
All About Lavender: Final Thoughts
If you enjoyed this article, then perhaps you’ll be interested in our lavender products. You can check out our products at https://mesalavender.com/shop/. You can follow Mesa Lavender Farms on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Sign up for our newsletter so you receive advanced warnings of sales and new products.