In this post, I am doing a deeper dive into one of the evergreen shrubs on our property — the Myrtle tree. Learning the significance of this ancient plant makes me appreciate its beauty even more.
Rewind a few years ago, and this gorgeous Mediterranean-native plant was not on my radar in the slightest. To be fair, I was more into inside plants at that point (they were my gateway drug to outdoor gardening) and then we moved to The Flower Bungalow. I’ve been studying my own yard since then because there was so much established botanic bounty here.
I first noticed the tiny little white flowers exploding all over the plant, which gave way to bunches of oblong blueberry-looking fruit. I didn’t even know what type of plant it was, let alone if the berries were edible. All I knew was that it was pretty and smelled good.
About the common Myrtle
The common Myrtle tree, or Myrtus Communis, is an evergreen shrub whose little blue berries resemble that of a blueberry. And for good reason — as a cousin to the blueberry, this fragrant shrub bursts with berries in the fall time in Arizona. There are many varieties of Myrtle, we happen to have the common or “true” Myrtle.
Are you wondering what Myrtle tastes like? It’s a strong, astringent flavor that resembles that of a mix between rosemary and juniper berry.
Identifying our common Myrtle was the first step into me falling down the rabbit hole of research. Merely satisfied with the plant’s beauty, I learned of its significance in the history of mankind, its uses and the symbolism it represents.
I’ve since become a little obsessed. The funny thing is, you don’t have to go far to stumble upon references to this abundantly fragrant evergreen shrub.
To prove my point, is the phrase “fertile Myrtle,” was referenced in last week’s episode of Sex and The City reboot, “And Just Like That.” (no spoilers)
I was kind of shocked to learn how intertwined Myrtle is with religious, cultural and historical stories. The plant has long been a symbol of good luck, prosperity, innocence and love.
Greek and Roman Mythology significance
Myrtle is highly significant in Greek and Roman Mythology. Myrtle sprigs, wreaths and crowns are commonly depicted adorning the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. According to Roman mythology, the goddess of love, Venus hid behind a myrtle tree to hide her naked body when she arrived at the Isle of Cytherea.
Myrtle’s ceremonial uses span the human race. In ancient times, Greek Olympians received crowns and wreaths made of myrtle. Present day traditions at the Royal Palace also include Myrtle. Thanks to a royal tradition traced back to Queen Victoria’s 1858 wedding, it is tradition for the royal bride to carry myrtle in the royal bouquet.
It is believed that the Garden of Eden was scented with Myrtle. In Christianity, the shrub is referenced several times throughout the bible. In Judaism, it is one of the “four species” mentioned in the Torah.
As a beneficial beauty ingredient known for its revitalizing properties, the flower of Myrtle is used as a natural beauty elixir, oftentimes in something called “angel water”.
Myrtle can be used for culinary purposes in a multitude of ways. Its leaves can be used in place of bay leaves. In some Mediterranean cuisines, its wood is used to flavor meats cooked on a grill. The berries can also be used to flavor meat and fish dishes, make a jam and a Sardinian after-dinner liquor called “mirto.”
In conclusion: Having a Myrtle tree is the best!
Learning all of this information about the significance of Myrtle only makes me appreciate having the plant in our yard even more. While I am still enjoying the berries of the tree in different ways (more on that soon!), I already look forward to the spring when the gorgeous white flowers are in bloom! I hope to try to make my own version of angel water at home.