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This genus is accepted, and its native range is Tropics & Subtropics.


Harley, R.M. et al. (2004). Labiatae, in The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants (K. Kubitzki, ed. in chief) VI: 167-275. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York.

Shrubs or herbs, often geoxylic, usually aromatic
Leaves simple
Inflorescence thyrsoid with cymes sessile, usually 3-flowered
Bracts very rarely coloured, persistent or if caducous bract-scar developing into auxiliary nectary
Calyx infundibular to tubular, straight, curving upwards or rarely bent downwards, strongly 2-lipped, 5-lobed (1/4), lobes unequal, posterior rounded, decurrent, curving upwards, lateral teeth deltoid, sometimes with a prominent shoulder or truncate, ante
Corolla strongly 2-lipped, 5-lobed (4/1), white or pink, posterior lip ascending, equally 4-lobed or with median exceeding lateral lobes, entire or fimbriate, anterior lip ± horizontal, flat or slightly concave, corolla-tube straight or curved towards bas
Stamens 4, posterior pair attached near corolla base, rarely sterile, exserted, filaments usually pubescent at base, often appendiculate, anterior pair attached at corolla throat
Stigma-lobes equal, subulate
Disc equally 4-lobed
Nutlets spherical to ellipsoid, rarely apically pubescent usually mucilaginous.
2n = 24-76, 88.  Sixty-five species. Subgenus Nautochilus (Bremek.) Paton might require recognition at generic rank.
Pantropical, mostly in Africa. Introduced to Eastern Europe and Central Pacific
In drier areas, grassland and open woodland.


M. Thulin et al. Flora of Somalia, Vol. 1-4 [updated 2008]

Herbs, subshrubs or small shrubs
Inflorescences thyrse-like, lax or dense; bracts smaller and distinct from the leaves, persistent or deciduous, sometimes forming a coma at apex of the inflorescences; cymes 3-flowered (in Somali species), pedunculate absent or almost so; bracteoles absent
Calyx 5-lobed or apparently 3-lobed, open or closed in fruit; upper lobe much larger than other lobes, decurrent along the tube; lateral lobes broad at the base, apically subulate, toothed or truncate to arcuate; lower lobes free or connate to an emarginate lower lip
Corolla strongly 2-lipped; upper lip ± equally 4-lobed, almost flat; lower lip straight or deflexed, ± as long as or shorter than the upper lip, shallowly concave or almost flat
Stamens directed to the lower lip of the corolla, longer than the lower lip; posterior pair inserted in the proximal part of the corolla-tube, hairy, with knee-bend and/or appendage in basal part of filaments, or rarely straight and without appendage (O. spectabile)
Anthers with divergent or parallel thecae
Style-branches equally long
Nutlets obovoid, ellipsoid or subglobose, glabrous or hairy.
Genus with about 67 species, widely distributed in the warm regions of the world.


Lamiaceae (Labiatae), A.J. Paton, G. Bramley, O. Ryding, R.M. Polhill, Y.B. Harvey, M. Iwarsson, F. Willis, P.B. Phillipson, K. Balkwill, C.W. Lukhoba, D.F. Otieno, & R.M. Harley. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 2009

Annual or perennial, herbs or shrubs, usually aromatic; indumentum of simple or dendroid hairs
Stems erect, usually branching above, often woody at base
Leaves opposite or occasionally ternate, petiolate or rarely subsessile
Flowers hermaphrodite, arranged in generally 6-flowered verticils, in a lax or dense inflorescence; bracts small or occasionally large and brightly coloured, sometimes forming a terminal coma, persistent or, if caducous, bract-scar often developing into an auxiliary nectary
Calyx funnel-shaped to tubular, straight, curving upwards or rarely bent downwards, 2-lipped; posterior lip large, entire, rounded at tip, decurrent on tube, curving upwards; anterior lip 4-lobed, teeth of lateral lobes lanceolate or deltate, teeth of median lobes deltate to subulate at anthesis; in fruit posterior lip accrescent, curving up or rarely flat; anterior lip sometimes closing the calyx-throat; throat sometimes densely hairy
Corolla whitish or pinkish, strongly 2-lipped; tube straight or curved towards base, usually dorsally gibbous at midpoint, often dilating towards throat; posterior lip subequally 4-lobed or with median exceeding lateral lobes, entire or fimbriate; anterior lip ± horizontal, flat or slightly concave
Stamens 4, declinate, equal or unequal, exserted; posterior pair attached near base of corolla, rarely sterile, exserted, filaments usually pubescent at base, often appendiculate; anterior pair attached near corolla throat, glabrous; anthers dorsifixed, synthecous
Disk equally 4-lobed
Ovary glabrous or with minute hairs, deeply 4-lobed; style gynobasic, bifid, branches equal, subulate
Nutlets black or brown, ovoid or spherical, with a small basal scar or not, smooth or minutely hairy, sometimes producing mucilage on wetting or not; embryo straight, exalbuminous.
The most commonly cultivated in the Flora area are O. basilicum, O. africanum, O. gratissimum and O. kilimandscharicum. The genus has recently been broadened to include Becium, Erythrochlamys and Nautochilus. An infrageneric arrangement is elaborated by A. Paton, R.M. Harley & M.M. Harley in Y. Holm & R. Hiltunen (eds), Ocimum: Medicinal and Aromatic Plants – industrial profiles: 1–38 (1999), in Series Ed. Hardman, Harwood Academic, Amsterdam. The East African species belong to the following sections and subgenera – for more details of subsections and series see Paton et al., loc. cit. (1999).


Several species, especially O. basilicum L. and O. tenuiflorum L., cultivated as potherbs, for medicinal use and ritual.  Some species are used as indicators of heavy metals.

Native to:

Aldabra, Andaman Is., Angola, Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Assam, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Bismarck Archipelago, Bolivia, Borneo, Botswana, Brazil North, Brazil Northeast, Brazil South, Brazil Southeast, Brazil West-Central, Burkina, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Provinces, Cape Verde, Caprivi Strip, Cayman Is., Central African Repu, Chad, Chile North, China South-Central, China Southeast, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, East Himalaya, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Florida, Free State, French Guiana, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Gulf States, Guyana, Hainan, Haiti, Honduras, India, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Jawa, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Laccadive Is., Laos, Leeward Is., Lesotho, Lesser Sunda Is., Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaya, Maldives, Mali, Maluku, Marianas, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, New Guinea, Nicaragua, Nicobar Is., Niger, Nigeria, Northern Provinces, Northern Territory, Oman, Pakistan, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Queensland, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Socotra, Solomon Is., Somalia, South China Sea, Southwest Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Suriname, Swaziland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad-Tobago, Uganda, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Vietnam, West Himalaya, Western Australia, Windward Is., Yemen, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

Introduced into:

Aruba, Canary Is., Christmas I., Cook Is., East Aegean Is., Fiji, Gilbert Is., Hawaii, Illinois, Kazakhstan, Line Is., Mongolia, Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, New York, Niue, Primorye, Samoa, Society Is., South Australia, South European Russi, Tokelau-Manihiki, Tonga, Ukraine, Wallis-Futuna Is., Xinjiang

Ocimum L. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Craven, L.A. [1412], Papua New Guinea K000897210
Branderhorst, B. [240], Indonesia K000897208
Mann, E.B. [NGF43339], Papua New Guinea K000897209
Troupin, G. [4805], Rwanda Becium 1232.000
Ash [985], Ethiopia Becium 37006.000
Ash [772], Ethiopia Becium 37007.000

First published in Sp. Pl.: 597 (1753)

Accepted by

  • Paton, A.J., Bramley, G., Ryding, O., Polhill, R., Harvey, Y., Iwarsson, M., Willis, F., Phillipson, P., Balkwill, K., Lukhoba, C., Otiend, D & Harley (2009). Lamiaceae (Labiatae) Flora of Tropical East Africa: 1-430.
  • Govaerts, R. (2003). World Checklist of Selected Plant Families Database in ACCESS: 1-216203. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.


Flora of West Tropical Africa

  • —F.T.A. 5: 334.

Flora of Somalia

  • Flora Somalia, (2000) Author: by O. Ryding [updated by M. Thulin 2008]
  • Paton & al. in Holm & Hiltunen, Medicinal and aromatic plants - industrial profiles: 1–38 (1999).
  • Paton in Kew Bull. 50: 199–242 (1995)
  • Paton in Kew Bull. 47: 403–435 (1992)
  • Sebald in Stuttgarter Beitr. Naturk. Ser. A 437: 1–63 (1989)
  • Sebald in Stuttgarter Beitr. Naturk. Ser. A 419: 1–74 (1988)

Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • K.B. 60: 24–31(2005)
  • Kubitzki, Fam. Gen. Vasc. Pl. 7: 260 (2004)
  • Holm & Hiltunen, Ocimum: 1–38 (1999)
  • K.B. 49: 403–435 (1992)
  • Gen. Pl., ed. 5: 259 (1754)
  • Sp. Pl.: 597 (1753)
  • L., Sp. Pl.: 597 (1753)

Lamiaceae Key Genus Fact Sheets

  • Harley RM, Atkins S, Budantsev AL, Cantino PD, Conn BJ, Grayer R, Harley MM, de Kok RPJ, Krestovskaja T, Morales R, Paton AJ, Ryding O, and Upson T. 2004. Labiatae, in The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants (K. Kubitzki, ed. in chief) VI: 167-275. Sp
  • Paton, Harley & Harley in Holm & Hiltunen (eds.). Ocimum. Medicinal and Aromatic plants - industrial profiles: 1-38 (1999), Harwood Academic, Amsterdam, rev.
  • Orthosiphon subgenus Nautochilus (Brem.) L.E.Codd (1964).
  • Orthosiphon sect. Serrati Ashby (1938).
  • Nautochilus Bremek., Ann. Transvaal Mus. 15: 252 (1933).
  • Hyperaspis Briq., Bull. Herb. Boissier, II, 3: 975 (1903).
  • Erythrochlamys Gürke, Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 19: 222 (1894).
  • Becium Lindl., Edwards's Bot. Reg. 28: t. 42 (1842).
  • Gen. Pl. ed. 5: 259 (1754)
  • Ocimum L., Sp. Pl. 2: 597 (1753)

Flora of Somalia
Flora of Somalia

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
'The Herbarium Catalogue, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet [accessed on Day Month Year]'. Please enter the date on which you consulted the system.

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at and
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at and
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

Lamiaceae Key Genus Fact Sheets
Nina Davies, Gemma Bramley and Don Kirkup, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Plants and People Africa
Common Names from Plants and People Africa
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