The evergreen leaves of this shrubby herb are about 25mm long, linear, revolute, dark green above and paler and glandular beneath, with an odour pungently aromatic and somewhat camphoraceous. The flowers are small and pale blue. Much of the active volatile principle resides in their calyces.
The Ancients were well acquainted with the shrub, which had a reputation for strengthening the memory. On this account it became the emblem of fidelity for lovers. It holds a special position among herbs from the symbolism attached to it. Not only was it used at weddings, but also at funerals, for decking churches and banqueting halls at festivals, as incense in religious ceremonies, and in magical spells.
At weddings, it was entwined in the wreath worn by the bride, being first dipped into scented water. Anne of Cleves wore a Rosemary wreath at her wedding. A Rosemary branch, richly gilded and tied with coloured silk ribbons was also presented to wedding guests, as a symbol of love and loyalty. Together with an orange stuck with cloves it was given as a New Year’s gift.
The plant contains some tannic acid, together with a resin and a bitter principle and a volatile oil. The chief constituents of the oil are borneol, bornyl acetate and other esters, camphor, cineol, pinene and camphene.