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The species of July 2020

Name: Common Myrtle
Scientific name: Myrtus communis
Family: Myrtaleae



Common Myrtle with the scientific name Myrtus communis, is an evergreen shrub up to 3 meters tall. Common Myrtle belongs to the Myrtaleae family. The leaves of the Common Myrtle are small and have a dark green glossy color [1-4]. Its fruits can be either black or white depending on the variety of Myrtle tree [1,2]. The Myrtus communis var. variety. communis bears black fruits and the Myrtus communis var variety. laucocarpa DC whites [2]. Its shoots are elastic and bend easily, which is why they are used for basket weaving  [1, 3]. It blooms from May to August and its fruits ripen from October to January [1-4].

It is a common native plant species [1,2]. It grows mainly on the banks of rivers or torrents, on the edges of fields and roads. It can be found in many areas of Cyprus such as Akamas, Akrotiri, Macheira, Karpasia and the Troodos and Pentadaktylos mountain ranges [1-2]. It is also found in all Mediterranean countries and east to India.

The essential oil produced from the leaves, tender shoots and fruits of the Myrtle tree is used in medicine and perfumery [1-4]. Mercinococci, that is, the fruits of Myrtle tree, are eaten raw and are considered very tasty, healthy and astringent. It is worth noting that the juice from the black Myrtle fruits used to be used for dyeing hair. In Crete there are reports that the mature black Myrtle fruits are mixed with raki and thus the myrtorak or meritoraki is produced, which is used as a delicious drink and as a medicine for colds, toothaches and stomach aches [3].

Symbolism and Uses in Ancient times
In ancient Greece, Myrtle tree was considered a symbol of beauty and youth and was associated with the worship of the goddess Aphrodite. According to popular tradition, Aphrodite emerged from the waves of the sea, on a beach in Paphos and hid her nudity behind a Myrtle tree [1-3]. Since then, Myrtle tree has been established as the sacred plant of the goddess Aphrodite. Thus, in ancient times, myrtle trees were planted in the courtyards of temples, a habit that survived Christianity. Statues of gods, and heroes were also adorned with wreaths of Myrtle shoots. There were many times among the tombs of the kings and other great dead golden crowns that looked like shoots and flowers of Myrtle tree [3]. In modern times on our island, the branches of Myrtle tree are used in festive events, for the reception of important people, for the construction of wreaths and for the decoration of the Epitaph [1,2].

[1] Τσιντίδης, Τ., Χατζήκυριάκου, Γ., Χριστοδούλου, Χ. (2002). Δέντρα και Θάμνοι στην Κύπρο. Λευκωσία: Ίδρυμα Α.Γ. Λεβέντη – Φιλοδασικός Σύνδεσμος Κύπρου

[2] Γεώργιος Ν. Χατζηκυριάκου. Αρωματικά και αρτυματικά φυτά στην Κύπρο – Από την αρχαιότητα μέχρι σήμερα. Πολιτιστικό Ίδρυμα Τραπέζης Κύπρου, Λευκωσία 2007.
[3] http://www.rodiaki.gr/article/171106/myrtos-h-koinh-myrtus-communis#ixzz3Pdd1yRkY
[4] Έλμουτ Μπάουμαν (1982 αρχική έκδοση, δεύτερη έκδοση 1999). Η ελληνική χλωρίδα στο μύθο, στην τέχνη, στην λογοτεχνία. Ελληνική Εταιρία Προστασίας της Φύσης. σελ. 51-52.

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