Saturday, September 4, 2021

Wild sweet basil

Wild sweet basil has lavender flowers
unlike sweet basil and lime basil which
have white flowers.

Florida's native basil

Update Feb. 2024: It turns out that the basil I described here in this article had been misidentfied and had been in the native plant trade for some years. But it turns out that it was holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) native to Asia and Australia. When I obtain the REAL Florida native, I'll update this article. Sorry.

Wild sweet basil (Ocimum campechianum) is warm-weather herb related to sweet basil (O. basilicum) and lime basil (O. americanum). (Lime basil can tolerate Florida's hot wet summers, which I wrote about in two previous posts.) Unlike those traditional basils so popular in the Mediterranean cooking, which are native to India, Africa and Southeast Asia, this wild basil is native to the southernmost Florida counties, the Caribbean islands, Mexico, Central America, and most of South America.

Since we live in northeast Florida, this plant is not a true native here, but South Florida is MUCH closer to home than Africa or India, so this species of basil would be a regional native that should be better adapted to our climate with our hot, wet summers. Sweet basil often suffers from fungal diseases during our wet summers.