Myrtle, or Myrtus, L. a genus of exotic trees, comprising forty-two species ; of which the communis, or Common Myrtle-tree, only is cultivated in Britain. There are several varieties, known tinder the names of Broad-leaved Roman, Dutch, and Jew's Myrtle ; orange-leaved Spanish Myrtle ; the Thyme-leaved, Rosemaryleaved, Box-leaved, and Upright Italian Myrtles, etc.
All these varieties are beautiful ever-greens ; which, though requiring the shelter of a green-house in the more northern parts of Britain, during the winter, vegetate most luxuriantly in the county of Cornwall, and on the southern coast, in the open air, without being sheltered from the severity of the winter.
The Common Myrtle is easily propagated by cuttings, which may be set in beds of a rich, but light soil, beneath glasses, or in a greenhouse, where they thrive with uncommon rapidity.- In the Island of Minorca, the young tops are employed for tanning; and the berries are eaten by the inhabitants.
In Britain, however, this species is cultivated chiefly for ornament though it is likewise of service as a medicine. A distilled water is obtained from its leaves; which, being both detersive and astringent, is sometimes used in gargles, or as a cosmetic for fixing the teeth, when loosened by the scurvy. Its berries are distilled ; and the oil they yield, is reputed to be excellent for thickening the hair ; on which account it is frequently used as an ingredient in pomatums, and other cosmetics. Lastly, a decoction of the flowers and leaves is said to be of great service in fomentations.