Dittany of Crete (Origanum dictamnus)

Also known as: Cretan dittany
GenusOriganum (1)
SizeHeight: up to 30 cm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plant Species 1997 (1).

The dittany of Crete is widely used for food flavouring and medicinal purposes, in addition to it featuring as an ornamental plant in gardens (3). This small, lanate shrub is easily recognised by the distinctive soft, woolly covering of white-grey hair on its stems and round green leaves (4) (5), giving it a velvety texture (6). Tiny rose-pink flowers surrounded by brighter purple-pink bracts add an exuberant splash of colour to the plant in summer and autumn (7) (8).

Native to the mountains of Crete, Greece (6).

Shady rocks in dry places in high mountains (3).

This deciduous (3), perennial plant blooms from June to August and sheds its leaves in winter (9). The flowers have both male and female reproductive organs and are pollinated by bees (9), which are attracted to the flowers by their bright colour and the plant’s aromatic fragrance (10).

The dittany of Crete is frequently used for food flavouring, medicinal purposes and decoration (3). Although widely cultivated for these purposes, this plant is also taken from the wild. The exact extent of harvesting from the wild is unknown, but the species is thought to be threatened from over exploitation (11).

There are currently no conservation measures targeting this species.

For more information on the dittany of Crete see:


Purdue University: Centre for New Crops and Plant Products:

Tutin, T.G., Heywood, V.H., Burges, N.A. & Valentine, D.H. (1972) Flora Europaea: Diapensiaceae to Myoporaceae v. 3. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. Walter, K.S. and Gillett, H.J. (1998) 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants. IUCN (The World Conservation Union), Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
  2. Desert-Tropicals.com (April, 2006)
  3. Permaculture Information web (April, 2006)
  4. Crimson sage Nursery: Medicinal Herb Plants Nursery (April, 2006)
  5. Tutin, T.G., Heywood, V.H., Burges, N.A. and Valentine, D.H. (1972) Flora Europaea: Diapensiaceae to Myoporaceae v. 3. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  6. Purdue University: Centre for New Crops and Plant Products (April, 2006)
  7. Mostly Natives Nursery (April, 2006)
  8. Epic Plants (April, 2006)
  9. Plants for a Future: Edible, medicinal and useful plants for a healthier world (April, 2006)
  10. Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  11. Greece: Country Report to the FAO International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources (April, 2006)