(Ruta graveolens, Linn.), a hardy perennial herb of roundish,

bushy habit, native of southern Europe. It is a member of the same

botanical family as the orange, Rutaceae. In olden times it was highly

reputed for seasoning and for medicine among the Greeks and the Romans.

In Pliny's time it was considered to be effectual for 84 maladies!

Today it "hangs only by its eyelids" to our pharmacopoeia. Apicus

notes it among th
condiments in the third century, and Magnus eleven

centuries later praises it among the garden esculents. At present it is

little used for seasoning, even by the Italians and the Germans, and

almost not at all by English and American cooks. Probably because of its

acridity and its ability to blister the skin when much handled, rue has

been chosen by poets to express disdain. Shakespeare speaks of it as the

"sour herb of grace," and Theudobach says:

"When a rose is too haughty for heaven's dew

She becometh a spider's gray lair;

And a bosom, that never devotion knew

Or affection divine, shall be filled with rue

And with darkness, and end with despair."

Description.--The much branched stems, woody below, rise 18 to 24

inches and bear small oblong or obovate, stalked, bluish-green glaucous

leaves, two or three times divided, the terminal one broader and notched

at the end. The rather large, greenish-yellow flowers, borne in corymbs

or short terminal clusters, appear all summer. In the round, four or

five-lobed seed vessels are black kidney-shaped seeds, which retain

their vitality two years or even longer. The whole plant has a very

acrid, bitter taste and a pungent smell.

Cultivation.--The plant may be readily propagated by means of seed, by

cuttings, by layers, and by division of the tufts. No special directions

are needed, except to say that when in the place they are to remain the

plants should be at least 18 inches apart--21 or 24 inches each way

would be even better. Rue does well on almost any well-drained soil, but

prefers a rather poor clayey loam. It is well, then, to plant it in the

most barren part of the garden. As the flowers are rather attractive,

rue is often used among shrubbery for ornamental purposes. When so grown

it is well to cut the stems close to the ground every two or three


Uses.--Because of the exceedingly strong smell of the leaves, rue is

disagreeable to most Americans, and could not become popular as a

seasoning. Yet it is used to a small extent by people who like bitter

flavors, not only in culinary preparations, but in beverages. The whole

plant is used in distilling a colorless oil which is used in making

aromatic vinegars and other toilet preparations. A pound of oil may be

secured from 150 to 200 pounds of the plant.