Roman Chamomile is one of those small plants that packs a big aromatic punch. Smelling like a Jolly Rancher sour apple candy, it makes an odiferous
bright green ground cover in cool summer climes. Often used in England to fill
in cracks between pavers or as a path cover or even as a soft bench cover, it is
sometimes referred to as English Chamomile. However, a German botanist, visiting Rome in the
mid-sixteenth century, coined the term Roman Chamomile and that name was
destined to stick.
The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all
used and even revered Chamomile. The Egyptians compared the sunny daisy
flowers to the sun and dedicated it to their sun god, Re (Ra). The Greeks gave it the
name that eventually led to the word Chamomile. They called it Kamaimelon.
means on the ground and melon means apple, so you get ground apple. The
Romans, who probably got it by way of Britain, bathed in it, walked on it
and used it medicinally.
Chamomile is a common term that is most
frequently used for two distinct plants, Chamaemelum nobile (Roman
Chamomile) and Matricaria recutita (German Chamomile). This tends to
confuse most everyone.
Both are collected and used medicinally
and for the famous cup of relaxing Chamomile tea. Both have bright,
sunny, daisy-like flowers with yellow centers and white petals. Both
have soft delicate foliage that is pleasingly scented (thought the
scents differ slightly). With both, it is mainly the flower that is dried for
medicinal use or tea.
Yet, they are botanically different and
that is why they belong to different Genera. It is the parts of the
flowers that separate the two. Roman Chamomile has a tiny papery bract
between the florets that German Chamomile does not. Also, the cone in the
center of the daisy is solid in Roman Chamomile and hollow in German
Roman Chamomile is three or four inch high
perennial that prefers cool summers; German Chamomile is an annual that
can reach two feet and can be grown almost anywhere. Roman Chamomile
doesn't really flower all that much, which is probably why more harvesting
is done from the German Chamomile. German Chamomile can usually be cut a
couple of times during the growing season because it takes only a few
weeks to make a new crop of flowers. Leaving the last crop of flowers to
go to seed will help ensure the sprouting of German Chamomile seedlings
everywhere next spring. Roman Chamomile also sets seed but not so
prolifically. It sometimes need to be divided and replanted after three or
Roman Chamomile can be used to make a
fragrant pathway or a nice aromatic surprise tucked among other garden
plants. If it pushes against other plants it can get up to a foot high
with bloom. It can also be mowed to the ground to keep it flat. However,
it is an important beneficial insect
plant so leaving those flowers on may be a better choice!
And while Chamomile is best known for
its soothing medicinal properties, take
note that some folks can be allergic or sensitive to Roman Chamomile.
Those most susceptible are those who are allergic to members of the
Chamomile can be used for more than just a
sweet smelling ground cover or a tasty tea. The fresh flowers can be used as a garnish.
Just be sure to remove the green bitter leaves under the flowers.
The flowers and the leaves can also be used in potpourri
in combination with other dried flowers.
And, there are endless combinations of tea,
both hot and iced, that Chamomile can lend its unique flavor and scent to.