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Basil is an important economic crop producing annually c.100 tonnes of essential oil worldwide and with a trade value as a pot herb of around US$15 million per year. It is also widely used in systems of indigenous medicine.

Ocimum basilicum (basil)

[FWTA]

Labiatae, J. K. Morton. Flora of West Tropical Africa 2. 1963

Morphology General Habit
A stout, bushy, aromatic herb
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
White flowers in loose racemes
Cytology
Tetraploid.

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
Ocimum basilicum, commonly known as basil, is an aromatic annual herb and an important economic crop.

Basil is an important economic crop producing annually c.100 tonnes of essential oil worldwide and with a trade value as a pot herb of around US$15 million per year. It is also widely used in systems of indigenous medicine.

Much confusion surrounds basil taxonomy with several forms having different attributes being recognised under the same name. However, a study by Dr Eli Putievsky of Newe Ya'ar Research Centre, Haifa, Israel, working with Alan Paton during a sabbatical year at Kew, used analysis of chromosome numbers and essential oils alongside morphological descriptions to investigate a standardisation of the approach. This type of work is extremely important in order to develop the full economic and medicinal potential of plant species. 

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Tropics of Asia and Africa; widely cultivated elsewhere.

Description

Ocimum basilicum is an aromatic, annual herb, 0.3-0.5 metres tall, but some cultivars can reach up to 1 m. The plant is almost hairless. Some cultivars, such as the 'Dark Opal', have leaves and stems deep purple in colour. The leaves are ovate, often puckered, flowers white or pink, and fruits have four small nutlets, which are mucilaginous when wet.

Ocimum basilicum is closely related to and frequently confused with Ocimum africanum and Ocimum americanum , but they can be identified on the basis of indumentum (hair distribution) and flower size. Lemon-scented cultivars are usually the result of crosses between O. basilicum and O. africanum .

Uses

Basil is used to flavour soups and sauces and is the main ingredient of pesto sauce. The leaves can be eaten as a salad. Basil is also used in perfumery, soap-making, and to flavour liqueurs. The seeds are edible, and when soaked in water become mucilaginous. In parts of the Mediterranean they are made into a refreshing drink known as cherbet tokhum.

Basil is widely used in systems of traditional medicine, including Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. It is used for treating digestive system disorders, such as stomach ache and diarrhoea, kidney complaints, and infections. In Africa, for example, it is used for treating whooping cough and various types of fever. The leaves are pulped in water to make ear- and eye-drops in parts of west Africa, and a leaf decoction is used for treating coughs.

The leaves are used to make an insecticide that can protect stored crops from beetle damage

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in Kew's seed bank vault at Wakehurst.

Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: 13

Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive being dried without significantly reducing their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)

Germination testing: Successful

Composition values: Oil content 24%, Protein 21%

Cultivation

Unlike other herbs grown in the same family (Lamiaceae) such as rosemary, sage and mint, basil is tropical in origin and as a result is not frost-hardy.

Ecology
Cultivated, not frost-hardy.
Conservation
Least concern.
Hazards

None.

[CPLC]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 0 - 1700 m.; Amazonia, Andes, Islas Caribeñas, Llanura del Caribe, Pacífico, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Valle del Cauca, Valle del Magdalena.
Morphology General Habit
Hierba

[UNAL]
Vernacular
Albahaca, Albahaca blanca, Albahaca cimarrona, Basilik, Fon bazin

[FTEA]

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

Type
Lectotype, see Paton, loc. cit. (1992): western Asia, Linnean Herbarium 749.5 (LINN!, lecto.)
Morphology General Habit
Aromatic, annual or short-lived perennial herb, 20–60 cm tall
Morphology Stem
Stems roundedquadrangular, erect or ascending, often woody at base, branching above, glabrous or puberulent with minute hairs concentrated on two opposing faces of the stem, becoming minutely pubescent on the inflorescence axis, usually with young shoots in the axils of the leaves
Morphology Leaves
Leaf blades narrowly ovate to elliptic, 1.5–5 × 0.5–2 cm, entire to shallowly serrate or occasionally laciniate, apex acute to acuminate, base cuneate to attenuate, glabrous or with small hairs on veins beneath, glandular-punctate; petiole 2–40 mm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence lax, verticils up to 12 mm apart; bracts deciduous or not, narrowly ovate to elliptical, 3–8 × 1–3 mm, acute to cuspidate at apex, cuneate at base; pedicel up to 3–4 mm long, erect, ± flattened, slightly curved
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx ± downwardpointing, 4–5 mm long at anthesis, posterior lip ± glabrous, tube and anterior lip pubescent or pilose, sparsely gland-dotted, interior with a dense ring of hairs at throat; posterior lip large, rounded at tip, decurrent, median teeth of anterior lip lanceolate, acuminate, lateral lobes deltate, cuspidate; fruiting calyx 6–8 mm long, throat open, posterior lip accrescent, decurrent, rounded and wider at tip, lateral and lower teeth of anterior lip ± convergent
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla pink, white or creamy yellow, 7–8 mm long; tube straight, funnel-shaped, scarcely exceeding calyx
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens exceeding corolla by 2–3 mm; posterior with a large, fleshy, flattened, glabrous outgrowth near base
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Ovary
Ovary glabrous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Nutlets black, ovoid, longer than broad, 2–2.5 mm long, ± smooth to minutely tuberculate, mucilaginous when wet
Figures
Fig 22: 5-6, p 139
Ecology
Cultivated and disturbed ground, ground prone to flooding, grassland; sea-level to 1100 m
Conservation
Least concern though it is unclear where this species is native of.
Note
O. basilicum, Sweet Basil, is grown commercially elsewhere for its essential oils and a number of varieties have been proposed. Paton & Putievsky, loc. cit. (1996), suggest that none of these should be given formal varietal rank. One of them, formerly commonly known as var. difforme Benth., with laciniate leaves, has been cultivated on Pemba ( Vaughan 635).
Distribution
Range: Possibly native to Ethiopia, widely naturalised throughout tropical Africa, Asia and America, cultivated in Europe and SW Asia Flora districts: U3 K7 T1 T3 T6

[KBu]

Suddee, S., A. J. Paton, & Parnell, J. (2005). Taxonomic Revision of Tribe Ocimeae Dumort. (Lamiaceae) in Continental South East Asia III. Ociminae. Kew Bulletin, 60(1), 3-75. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4110885

Distribution
Tropical Africa, tropical Asia and tropical America, widely cultivated.
Ecology
In open areas, waste grounds, often cultivated; from sea level to 1100 m.
Morphology General Habit
Aromatic, annual or short lived perennial herbs, 0.3 - 1 m tall
Morphology Leaves
Leaves dark green, ovate or elliptic-ovate, 15 - 50 x 5 - 25 mm, apex acute, base cuneate, margin entire or sparsely serrate, glandular-punctate, glabrous on both sides or glabrous above, puberulous on veins beneath or pubescent on both sides with longer hairs on midrib and lateral veins beneath; petiole to 20 mm long, pubescent
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens with posterior having a transverse process of tufted hairs near base
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx campanulate, 4 - 5 mm long at anthesis, 6 - 8 mm long in fruit; posterior lip rounded, decurrent on tube, margin curved, apiculate at apex; anterior lip with 2 median lanceolate, acuminate teeth, slightly longer than posterior, lateral teeth deltoid, cuspidate, almost equal to posterior; throat open; tube with sessile or subsessile glands outside, with a ring of villous hairs at throat and glabrous or glabrescent base inside
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla white, purple or white with purple margin, 7 - 8 mm long; lobes obscurely crenate, pubescent or villous on back; posterior lip with 2 median oblong lobes and 2 lateral broadly oblong lobes; anterior lip boat shaped, oblong in outline; tube straight, glabrous on both sides
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Nutlets dark brown, oblong or ovoid-ellipsoid, 2 - 2.5 x 1 - 1.5 mm, minutely tuberculate with black dots, producing mucilage when wet.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence lax or dense, verticils up to 12 mm apart, axis pubescent; bracts ovate, elliptic, elliptic-ovate or elliptic-lanceolate, 6 - 10 x 2 - 5 mm, apex acuminate, base cuneate or attenuate, margin pilose, glandular-punctate, pubescent or puberulent on both sides, abaxial with conspicuous median nerve; pedicels 1 - 2 mm long, pubescent
Morphology Stem
Stems quadrangular, rounded or round- quadrangular, glabrous or sparsely pubescent, usually with young shoot in the axil of leaves
Note
From the collection seen at Leiden, Ocimum basilicum sensu Keng includes specimens of both O. basilicum L. and O. americanum L. var. pilosum (Willd.) A. J. Paton
Phenology
Flowering and fruiting January - December.
Type
cultivated in Uppsala, Linnean Herbarium 749.1 [lectotype LINN (microfiche!)].
Vernacular
Burmese: Ziya-Apyu, Pin-Sein. Cambodian: Ci Nieng Vong. Laotian; Pak Bua La Phe, I Tou. Thai: Hokuai-Suai, Ho-Wo-Su (Karen-Mae Hong Son); Horaphaa (General); Im-Khim-Khaao (Shan-Mae Hong Son). Vietnamese: Rau E, E Tia, E Que, Rau Que, Cay Hung Gioi, Thaokai, Ytou, Chi Sa, Hung Gioi.

[FSOM]

M. Thulin et al. Flora of Somalia, Vol. 1-4 [updated 2008] https://plants.jstor.org/collection/FLOS

Morphology General Habit
Annual or short-lived perennial herb, 0.2–0.6 m tall, subglabrous or sparsely hairy with minute simple hairs; stems subglabrous or sparsely to moderately hairy along two faces
Morphology Leaves
Leaves petiolate; blade narrowly ovate or elliptic, up to 15–50 × 5–20 mm, apex acute to acuminate, base cuneate to attenuate, margin entire to shallowly serrate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences lax or rather dense; bracts persistent or deciduous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits Fruiting calyx
Fruiting calyx c. 6 mm long, open, hairy in the throat; upper lobe suborbicular, rounded at the base; lateral lobes deltoid, cuspidate; lower lobes not connate, lanceolate, acuminate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla 5–8 mm long, pale pink, white or creamy yellow
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Anterior stamens 2–4 mm longer than the lower lip of the corolla
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Nutlets 1.5–2 × 0.7–1 mm, almost smooth, black, producing mucilage when wet.
Distribution
C2; S2.
Ecology
Altitude range 50–150 m.

[FWTA]
Use
Commonly cultivated for culinary purposes

[KSP]
Use
Food, perfume, flavoured liqueurs, medicine, insecticide.

[KBu]
Use
The leaves are used in curries in every country in the region. Fresh leaves together with the other fresh vegetables are used as a side dish for Vietnamese style noodles in the northeastern part of Thailand. This species is also the main herb used in the traditional Thai green curry called 'Kang Keow Wan'.

Native to:

Andaman Is., Assam, Bangladesh, Bismarck Archipelago, Borneo, Cambodia, China South-Central, China Southeast, East Himalaya, India, Jawa, Laos, Lesser Sunda Is., Malaya, Maluku, Myanmar, Nepal, New Guinea, Nicobar Is., Philippines, Queensland, Sri Lanka, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, West Himalaya, Western Australia

Introduced into:

Angola, Bahamas, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil Southeast, Bulgaria, Burkina, Burundi, Cameroon, Canary Is., Cape Provinces, Cape Verde, Caroline Is., Cayman Is., Central African Repu, Chad, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Cook Is., Cuba, Dominican Republic, East Aegean Is., Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Gilbert Is., Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, Illinois, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Laccadive Is., Leeward Is., Liberia, Line Is., Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Marianas, Marquesas, Marshall Is., Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nauru, New Caledonia, New York, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, Oman, Panamá, Primorye, Puerto Rico, Romania, Samoa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Society Is., South Australia, South European Russi, Sudan, Tanzania, Tokelau-Manihiki, Tonga, Trinidad-Tobago, Tuamotu, Uganda, Ukraine, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Wallis-Futuna Is., Windward Is., Xinjiang, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

English
Basil

Ocimum basilicum L. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Jan 1, 2010 Madulid [27331], Philippines K000249646
Jan 1, 2009 Villacorta [245], El Salvador K000248475
Jan 1, 2009 Sundaling [142159], Sabah K000248647
Jan 1, 2007 Mello, L. [s.n.], Brazil K000479655
Jan 1, 2007 Zaramela, G.S. [s.n.], Brazil K000479656
Jan 1, 1999 Powell, D.A. [XI1354], Australia K000897334
Jan 1, 1999 Quadra, A. [A4069], Malaysia K000897330
Jul 1, 1997 Lugas, L. [1288], Malaysia K000897332
May 5, 1988 Dyg. Awa [44381], Malaysia K000897327
Jun 5, 1986 Burtt-Davy, J. [5288], South Africa K000347122 Unknown type material
Apr 1, 1938 Schiffner, V. [2488], Indonesia K000897328
Tweedie [995], Kenya 2760.000
Scott, H., Ethiopia 2761.000
India 33705.000
USA 55958.000
Pettet, A., Sudan 60221.000
Backer, C.A. [19610], Indonesia K000897331
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2713] K001116889
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2713], India K001116890
Horsfield, T. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897335
Quadra, A. [A1040], Malaysia K000897329
Wallich, N. [s.n.], Malaysia K000897353 Unknown type material
Frake, C.O. [38105], Philippines K000897249
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2713] K001116888
s.coll. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897336
Frake, C.O. [38073], Philippines K000897248
Prescott, T.A.K. [13], Papua New Guinea K000939078
Reillo, J. [16459], Philippines K000897247
Wallich, N. [Cat. no. 2713], India K001116887

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

Accepted by

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  • Lebrun, J.P., Toutain, B., Gaston, A. & Boudet, G. (1991). Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Burkina Faso: 1-341. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
  • Lorence, D.H. & Wagnwe, W.L. (2020). Flora of the Marquesas Islands 2: 413-1135. National Tropical Botanic Garden, Smithsonian, DRPF.
  • Mabberley, D.J. & De Kok, R.P.J. (2004). Labiatae Flore de la Nouvelle-Calédonie et Dépendances 25: 20-141. Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris.
  • Manikandan, R., Chandrasekar, K. & Srivastava, S.K. (2012). Life form analysis of the family Lamiaceae in Jammu & Kashmir, India Phytotaxonomy 12: 7-19.
  • Martínez-Gordillo, M. & al. (2019). Flora del Valle de Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Lamiaceae: 1-233. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Mohlenbrock, R.H. (2014). Vascular Flora of Illinois. A Field Guide, ed. 4: 1-536. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.
  • Morales, R. (2011). Les Labiadas (Lamiaceae) de Guinea Ecuatorial Anales del Jardin Botanico de Madrid 68: 199-223.
  • Morat, P. & Veillon, J.-M. (1985). Contributions à la conaissance de la végétation et de la flore de Wallis et Futuna Bulletin du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. Section B, Adansonia 7: 259-329.
  • Pandey, R.P. & Dilwakar, P.G. (2008). An integrated check-list flora of Andaman and Nicobar islands, India Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 32: 403-500.
  • 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.
  • Paton, A.J., Bramley, G., Ryding, O., Polhill, R.M., Harvey, Y.B., Iwarsson, M., Otieno, D., Balkwill, K., Phillipson, P.B., Harley, R.M. & Willis, F. (2013). Flora Zambesiaca 8(8): 1-346. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Peyre de Fabregues, B. & Lebrun, J.-P. (1976). Catalogue des Plantes Vascularies du Niger: 1-433. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
  • Sachet, M.-H. (1969). List of vascular flora of Rangiroa Atoll Research Bulletin 125: 33-44.
  • Sita, P. & Moutsambote, J.-M. (2005). Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Congo, ed. sept. 2005: 1-158. ORSTOM, Centre de Brazzaville.
  • Smith, A.C. (1991). Flora Vitiensis Nova. A new flora for Fiji (Spermatophytes only) 5: 1-626. Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden, Lawai.
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  • Sykes, W.R. (2016). Flora of the Cook Islands: 1-973. National Tropical Botanical Garden, Hawaii.
  • Urziceanu, M. & al. (2020). Updated list of non-native ornamental plants in Romania Contributii Botanice Universitatea "Babes-Bolyai" din Cluj-Napoca 55: 59-82.
  • Welsh, S.L. (1998). Flora Societensis: 1-420. E.P.S. Inc. Utah.
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Flora of Somalia

  • Flora Somalia, (2000) Author: by O. Ryding [updated by M. Thulin 2008]

Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • E.P.A.: 845 (1963)
  • F.T.A. 5: 336 (1900)
  • F.W.T.A., ed. 2, 2: 452 (1963)
  • Fl. Eth. 5: 571 (2006).
  • Fl. Rwanda 3: 326 (1985)
  • Holm & Hiltunen, Ocimum: 25 (1999)
  • K.B. 47: 423, fig. 1E, F (1992)
  • K.B. 51: 513 (1996)
  • P.O.A. C: 349 (1895)
  • Sp. Pl.: 597 (1753)
  • U.K.W.F. ed. 2: 296 (1994)

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