What Is Elfin Thyme?
Elfin thyme (Serpentinella serpens) is a type of perennial herbaceous plant native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. It grows from 2–5 m tall with 3–10 leaves per leaflet. Its flowers are white or pinkish purple and have 5 stamens each with 4 petals. They are borne on short stems up to 10 cm long, which may reach 30 cm in height.
The leaves are opposite, lance shaped, 1.2–3 mm long and 0.6–1 mm wide; they are arranged in pairs at the tip of the stem and along its length. They are alternate, 4–7 mm long and 0.4–0.8 mm thick; their margins become wavy when wet, becoming straight again once dry.
They are green above but turn reddish brown beneath when bruised or cut open.
Elfin thyme plants produce a dense mat of tiny, white or pinkish-purple flowers called racemes. These flowers are followed by small, black seeds which fall to the soil after flowering. Seeds germinate quickly and begin growing within 24 hours. The young seedlings grow rapidly and can live for several years before dying back to the ground where they die soon after reaching maturity.
How To Grow Elfin Thyme?
Elfin thyme can be easily grown from seed. They are most commonly grown from seed, although they can be propagated by division in the spring. Sow seeds in spring or fall in lightly prepared soil at a depth of one-fourth to one-third of their width. Transplant seedlings to a permanent location in the spring after the last expected frost. Space transplants 30 cm apart each way.
Elfin thyme prefers part sun to full shade (except in the South, where it prefers morning sun and afternoon shade). It prefers dry to average moisture and well-draining soil. It tolerates poor, rocky soil. It grows best in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-7.
Harvesting Elfin Thyme
Harvest leaves as needed any time of year. Cut or snap stems 6-10 cm from plant base.
Uses of Elfin Thyme
Elfin thyme is an attractive ground cover used in rock gardens or between bricks and pavers. It makes a nice edging for flower beds and walkways. Elfin thyme is drought tolerant and does not need mowing
Sow elfin thyme with other flowering plants to attract bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. Elfin thyme is a companion plant for:
Its oil has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties which help with cuts, wounds, insect bites, and other skin conditions. It is thought to have insect repellent properties as well.
Sources & references used in this article:
Creeping Thyme: Poems by R Pies – 2004 – books.google.com
The USDA Economic Botany Laboratory’s database on minor economic plant species by IE Cock, SF Van Vuuren – Journal of ethnopharmacology, 2020 – Elsevier
Floristic diversity of Jammu and Kashmir, India, especially in context to skin care by JA Duke – OTA, Plants: The Potentials for Extracting Protein …, 1983 – princeton.edu
Annual Flower and Perennial Landscape Plant Evaluations 1996 by N Husain, TH Trak, D Chauhan – Int. J. Adv. Sci. Technol, 2020 – researchgate.net
Wildflowers in the Field and Forest: A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States by PB Shelley – 1905 – AC McClurg & Company