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thyme (tĪm) [key], any species of the genus Thymus, aromatic herbs or shrubby plants of the family Labiatae (mint family). The common thyme, which is used as a seasoning herb and yields a medicinal essential oil containing thymol, is the Old World T. vulgaris, an erect plant with grayish branches. It is cultivated mainly in Spain and in France. A compound derived from T. vulgaris, thymine, is used as a topical antifungal. The wild or creeping thyme, or mother-of-thyme ( T. serpyllum ), also used medicinally, is an Old World evergreen naturalized in North America and popular as a ground cover, edging, and rock plant. This was the wild thyme mentioned in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. The Greeks used thyme as a temple incense, and it has been prized since ancient times as a honey plant. Thyme is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Lamiales, family Labiatae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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