The cotton lavender (Santolina chamaecyparissus L.) is a shrub species belonging to the Asteraceae family.
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, United Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Asteridae Subclass, Asterales Order, Asteraceae Family and therefore to the Santolina Genus and to the S. chamaecyparissus Species.
The terms are synonymous: Santolina logi Arrigoni, Santolina chaemecyparissus Auct. non L. and Abrotanum foemina Garsault ..
The term Santolina, according to some authors, is a probable alteration from the Latin santonica, feminine of santonicus, that is of the Santones, ancient population of Aquitaine, region of south-western France. According to others it derives from the Latin sanctus santo and from linum lino, perhaps a reference to the therapeutic properties of the plant. the specific epithet chamaecyparissus comes from the Greek prefix χᾰμαι- chamai- a terra, creeping and from κυπάρισσος cypárissos cypress: similar to a dwarf cypress.
Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
The cotton lavender is a shrub species that probably originated in the Mediterranean area of great aromatics. The presence in Italy is not spontaneous but sporadic and derived from the cultivation as ornamental, officinal and for its medicinal properties. Its habitat is represented by the arid and stony places, from the plain to the 1000 meters.
Santolina chamaecyparissus is a small evergreen shrub that can reach 50-60 cm in height, expanding to 80-90 cm in width. It has an erect or semi-prostrate habit, and forms dense roundish shrubs, consisting of thin woody stems covered with very divided leaves, composed of small linear-gray lobes, with a woolly appearance, intensely scented.
In the period between June and July it produces small, yellow, rounded flowers, gathered in apical inflorescences.
The fruits are of the gypsies of form from obconiche to obovoid, of 2 – 3 mm, with the angles sometimes tightly winged. Pappus missing.
Cotton lavender is a plant that prefers loose, well-drained, sandy and possibly calcareous soils; however, it usually develops without problems in any terrain, given that it has very few crop needs.
For optimal growth it is necessary to plant these plants in very bright and sunny places. As far as the climatic aspect is concerned, these are plants that can withstand even temperatures well below zero, but sometimes they need coverage if the winter months are particularly harsh; in general it is sufficient to mulch the soil around the base of the stem with straw or leaves to ensure good growth of the plant and prevent it from suffering due to particularly cold temperatures.
In reference to water needs, the cotton lavender is a plant that has a very low need for water. During the coldest periods, it is normally satisfied only with rainwater, while in the summer months they may need sporadic irrigation, about every 10-15 days.
If they are repaired in winter, remember to wet the plants at least once a month. It is advisable to water the plants starting from the bottom, avoiding instead to wet the leaves that could be ruined by a too prolonged contact with the water, for the same reason it is good to avoid making the branches fall down too much towards the ground.
The propagation of this plant takes place by division of the tufts or by herbaceous cutting, in the summer period, rooted in sandy loam. When the new plants are fairly developed, they are transplanted into individual pots or into the ground, in a sunny position and in a well-drained substrate.
If propagated by seed, at the end of winter it is possible to sow Santolina chamaecyparissus in a seedbed kept in a temperate place, otherwise it is possible to sow it outdoors in the months of April-May.
Uses and Traditions –
Santolina chamaecyparissus is a plant that has multiple uses both as a border plant, for very decorative foliage, where it is also used in the beds of aromatic plants, even if the fragrant leaves are not commonly found in the recipes of our peninsula.
In the formation of flower beds we tend to trim the floral stems, to keep the appearance of the shrub more compact.
There are about ten species of cotton lavenders, generally the most cultivated are S. chamaecyparissus and S. rosmarinifolia.
For use as an aromatic plant it is recommended to cut the twigs in early summer when they are in full bloom and let them dry in a shady and ventilated place and keep away from light and humidity.
Santolina has digestive, antispasmodic, tonic-stimulating, antiseptic properties if used as an infusion or decoction. For external use it can be used as an anti-itching in case of insect bites.
An essential oil can be extracted from the plant and used in perfumery. Furthermore in cosmetics it is used as a tonic.
The branches can be hung in closets to repel insects, and the leaves are also suitable for use in pot pourri and herbal tobacco substitutes.
Preparation Mode –
Cotton lavender can also be used in the kitchen where its leaves are used mainly to flavor fish dishes.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, do not in any way represent a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is assumed for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.