Fine Art

Majorana syriaca - za'atar

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Asterids
Cladus: Lamiids
Ordo: Lamiales

Familia: Lamiaceae
Subfamilia: Nepetoideae
Tribus: Mentheae
Subtribus: Menthinae
Genus: Origanum
Species: Origanum syriacum
Subspecies: O. s. subsp. bevanii – O. s. subsp. sinaicum – O. s. subsp. syriacum

Origanum syriacum L., Sp. Pl. 2: 590 (1753).

Majorana syriaca (L.) Raf., Autik. Bot.: 119 (1840).
Schizocalyx syriacus (L.) Scheele, Flora 26: 575 (1843).


Origanum syriacum (Boiss.) Kuntze = Thymus syriacus Boiss.

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Asia-Temperate
Regional: Western Asia
Cyprus, Lebanon-Syria, Palestine, Sinai, Turkey.
Regional: Arabian Peninsula
Saudi Arabia.

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

Linnaeus, C. 1753. Species Plantarum. Tomus II: 590. Reference page.


USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Origanum syriacum in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.
Govaerts, R. et al. 2020. Origanum syriacum in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2020 April 2. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2020. Origanum syriacum. Published online. Accessed: 2 April 2020.

Vernacular names
English: Biblical-hyssop, Lebanese oregano, Syrian oregano
עברית: אזוב מצוי
svenska: syrisk oregano

Origanum syriacum; syn. Majorana syriaca (also Origanum maru, although this primarily refers to a hybrid of O. syriacum),[3] bible hyssop,[4] Biblical-hyssop,[1] Lebanese oregano[1] or Syrian oregano,[1] is an aromatic perennial herb in the mint family, Lamiaceae.


The plant may be called za'atar by association with its use in an herb-spice mixture. In Modern Hebrew, it is called ezov, and it may have been the ezov of Classical Hebrew.[5] In many English translations of the Bible, ezov is rendered as hyssop, hence the common name for bible hyssop, believed to be a different plant generally identified with Hyssopus officinalis. The problems with identification arise from Jewish oral tradition where it expressly prohibits Greek hyssop, and where the biblical plant is said to have been identical to the Arabic word, zaatar (Origanum syriacum), and which word is not to be associated with other types of ezov that often bear an additional epithet, such as zaatar farsi = Persian-hyssop (Thymus capitatus) and zaatar rumi = Roman-hyssop (Satureja thymbra) and zaatar mani = calamint (Calamintha incana).[6]
In habitat in the Judean mountains

Origanum syriacum grows to a height of 1 meter. The plant is pollinated by bees.[4] Flowers are small and white or pale pink.[7]

Origanum syriacum is native to the Middle East.[1] In Egypt, Origanum syriacum subsp. sinaicum is a very rare plant that grows on stony ground in Sinai Peninsula including the coastal Mediterranean strip.[8] From the conservation point of view it is an endangered plant.

It is a preferred primary ingredient in the spice mixture za'atar. So precious is this herb that in the Levant, Arabs will send out foraging parties to gather it. Origanum syriacum is harvested in the wild for use in preparing za'atar, a mixture of dried herbs, sesame and sumac for flavoring and garnish. However, it has recently entered cultivation due to high levels of demand.[9]
Further reading

Fleisher, Alexander; Fleisher, Zhenia (1988). "Identification of Biblical Hyssop and Origin of the Traditional Use of Oregano-Group Herbs in the Mediterranean Region". Economic Botany. Springer. 42 (2): 232–241. doi:10.1007/BF02858924. JSTOR 4255069. S2CID 45220405.
Paton, Alan (1994). "Three Membranous-bracted Species of Origanum". The Kew Magazine. Wiley. 11 (3): 109–117. JSTOR 45067209.


"Origanum syriacum". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 22 April 2013.
"Origanum syriacum L.". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 21 April 2013 – via The Plant List.
"Za'atar, a renowned herb blend, and events inspired by it". Vegetable Gardener. 29 September 2010.
"Origanum syriacum Bible Hyssop". PFAF Plant Database. Plants For A Future. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
Based on the Judeo-Arabic translation of the word in the works of Rabbi Saadia Gaon (in his Tafsir, a translation of the Pentateuch, Exo. 12:22), Nathan ben Abraham I in Mishnah Uktzin 2:2, Rabbi Jonah ibn Janah (Sefer HaShorashim - Book of the Roots, s.v. אזב - aleph, zayn, bet), and Maimonides (in his Mishnah Commentary, Nega'im 14:6).
The Mishnah (ed. Herbert Danby), Oxford University Press: Oxford 1977, s.v. Negai'im 14:6 (p. 696); Parah 11:7 (p. 711).
"Origanum syriacum". Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
Boulos, Loutfy (2002). Flora of Egypt. Vol. 3: Verbenaceae-Compositae. Cairo, Egypt: Al-Hadara Publishing. p. 12. ISBN 9775429250.
Khairallah, Simon (1 January 2010). "Plant story - helping to conserve Origanum syriacum". Kew News. Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. Archived from the original on 2018-07-03. Retrieved 21 April 2013.

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