A little bit of botanics to recognise true lavender
Do you know the difference between lavender and lavandin?
True lavender grows in the arid Provencal hills above 800 metres altitude. The southern slopes of the Sault plateau and the Albion plateau account for 70% of the population true lavender crop.
True lavender is a small cluster, and has only one flower on each stem. True lavender reproduces by seed. It is also called population lavender. It has long been used for its medicinal properties. It was referred to as blue gold, for it was highly sought after by the great perfume makers for its very delicate fragrance. The name of
“true lavender” is used by the growers. It takes approximately 130 kilogrammes of lavender flowers to distill 1 litre of essential oil par. In a good year, one hectare of true lavender can produce up to 25 litres of essential oil.
Spike lavender grows in scrubland between sea level and 600 metres altitude. Spike lavender grows in large clusters, with several spikes on a single stem. Each stem therefore bears several small flowers. Spike lavender reproduces via seed also. It is used very little in France. Its scent is very strong, very camphor-like. It is used in Spain and in Portugal as a solvent for oil paints and on porcelain.
Lavandin grows throughout the world between sea level and 800 metres altitude. Lavandin also grows in large clumps. It has 2 spikes and grows very big, round clusters. Lavandin is a hybrid. It is a cross between true lavender and spike lavender. Therefore it is sterile, and is reproduced by man, through slips. It also referred to as a clone. Lavandin was bred in the 1950’s, and since then has often been confused with true lavender. Confusing lavandin and true lavender is a mistake, for lavandin’s fragrance is much stronger and less subtle than true lavender, and it cannot be used for medicinal purposes. Lavandin is used industrially, to scent household products such as detergents. Lavandin flowers are used to make lavender sachets. It takes approximately 40 kilogrammes of lavandin flowers to make 1 litre of essential oil of lavandin – clearly lavandin yield is more economic than true lavender!