This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
As a woodland species of Northern and Arctic regions one would almost expect to find evidence that this plant is an ancient one, but so far it has not been forthcoming. It is found throughout Arctic Europe, N. Africa, Siberia, Dahuria, W. Asia, as far east as the Himalayas, and it has been introduced into North America.
In Great Britain it is found in the Peninsula, Channel, Thames, Anglia, and Severn provinces, and occurs in S. Wales generally, except in Radnor, N. Wales; in the Trent province except in S. Lincs; Westmorland; W. Lowlands, but not in Dumfries; in E. Highlands, not in Stirling, N. Aberdeen, Easterness; in W. Highlands, only in S. Ebudes; N. Highlands, Caithness. It is rare in Scotland. In Yorkshire it grows at 1300 ft. It is local in Ireland.
Marjoram is one of those sweet-smelling plants which lend such charm to the woodlands when all the flowers are in bloom. It is found in upland districts in woods, copses, and plantations, as well as along the hedgerows, where the soil is dry, or perhaps the surface covered with a small rubble of stones. Marjoram is an erect plant with a slender, tetragonal stem, purple, downy, branched, with opposite ascending branches more slender too. The leaves are opposite, egg-shaped, stalked and toothed, downy beneath.
The flowers are in dense, corymbose cymes, with egg-shaped purple bracts or leaflike organs larger than the calyx, purple, the heads egg-shaped.
The plant is 1-2 ft. high. It is flowering in June up to October in some places. The plant is a deciduous, herbaceous perennial, increased by division. It is worthy of more attention than is given it.
Marjoram has large proterandrous hermaphrodite flowers, i.e. with male and female organs on the same flower, and smaller female flowers. It is like Wild Thyme in the position and secretion of the honey, and is more conspicuous though less sweet-scented. The flowers have lost the power of self-pollination, as the plant is much visited by insects. The tube is 7 mm. long in the large complete flowers, and 4-5 mm. in the small female flowers. A great variety of insects visit it, Bombus, Halictus, Empis, Ascia, Eristalis, Helophilus, Sicus, Myopa, Ocyptera, Prosena, Satyrus janira. The small female flowers are in bloom a week before the larger ones.
Photo. G. B. Dixon - Marjoram (origanum Vulgnre, L.)
The nutlets are free and fall around the plant automatically, the plant dispersing them unaided.
Marjoram is a lime-lover, and grows especially on lime soil, being found on the chalk, limestone formations, and oolites.
A fungus, Puccinia menthce, attacks the leaves.
A beetle, Meligethes lugubris, several Lepidoptera, Dark Brocade, Hadena adusta, Tortrix dumetana, Gelechia subocellea, Pterophorus tetradactylus, Pyrausta punicealis, Purple and Gold Moth, Nothris durdhamella, Coleophora albitarsella, visit it.
Origanum, Theophrastus, is from the Greek oros, hill, and ganos, joy, and the second Latin name indicates its general occurrence, which is a mistake, as it is rather local.
This plant is named Argans, Marjoram, English Marjoram, Orga-ment, Organ, Organy, Pot Marjoram.
The dried leaves have been used for tea and in fomentations. Marjoram yields an essential oil, which is acrid, caustic, and highly aromatic. Marjoram has been used for toothache. The plant has also been used by farriers. A purple dye for wool has been obtained from it, and linen has been dyed reddish-brown with it. It has a pungent taste, like Thyme. It was put in beer to make it intoxicating. The tea has been used in cases of stomach weakness and breast troubles.
Essential Specific Characters: 249. Origanum vulgare, L. - Stem erect, branched, leaves serrate, ovate, purple, bracts exceeding the purple flowers in a crowded panicled cyme.