<botany> A species of the genus Myrtus, especially Myrtus communis. The common myrtle has a shrubby, upright stem, eight or ten feet high. Its branches form a close, full head, thickly covered with ovate or lanceolate evergreen leaves. It has solitary axillary white or rosy flowers, followed by black several-seeded berries. The ancients considered it sacred to Venus. The flowers, leaves, and berries are used variously in perfumery and as a condiment, and the beautifully mottled wood is used in turning.
The name is also popularly but wrongly applied in America to two creeping plants, the blue-flowered periwinkle and the yellow-flowered moneywort. In the West Indies several myrtaceous shrubs are called myrtle. Bog myrtle, the sweet gale. Crape myrtle. See Crape.
Origin: F. Myrtil bilberry, prop, a little myrtle, from myrte myrtle, L. Myrtus, murtus, Gr.; cf. Per. Mrd.
(01 Mar 1998)
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