lavender, common name for any plant of the genus Lavandula, herbs or shrubby plants of the family Labiatae (mint family), most of which are native to the Mediterranean region but naturalized elsewhere. The true lavender (L. officinalis) has grayish foliage and small blue or pale purplish flowers (white in one variety). It is popular for herb gardens and is cultivated commercially (chiefly in France and England) or, more commonly, gathered wild (in S Europe) for the fragrant flowers, valued for scenting linens and clothes and as the source of oil of lavender. The oil is distilled for use in perfumery, in toilet preparations (e.g., lavender water). Lavender is sometimes used as a flavoring. Spike lavender (L. latifolia), a broader-leaved, less fragrant species, yields spike-lavender oil, which is also used in perfumery and in varnishes and porcelain painting. Lavender 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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