Wild thyme, or Thymus polytrichus, is a species of the Lamiales order of wild flowering plants, and is in fact a low growing member of the mint, or Lamiaceae family. This ground covering plant rapidly forms dense mats due to its extensive downy runners, and as such is perfect for the Meadowmat concept.
What does Wild thyme look like?
Wild thyme rarely grows past a few inches in height and features square stems, two sides of which are hairy, leading to fuzzy, deep blue-green, oval leaves. These leaves are extremely aromatic, not dissimilar to oregano, but the exact degree of aroma generally depends on the time of year and situation of the plant. In summer time, there are clusters of beautiful purple to lilac-pink flowers, each averaging around 5mm in diameter. It is this blanket of purple wild flowers that creates the striking effect this plant is famous for, adding splashes of colours to sun-drenched meadows and heath-land.
There are a number of subspecies of Thymus polytrichus, but the native species to the United Kingdom, the subspecies Britannicus, is widespread throughout Great Britain and Ireland, as well as vast parts of Western Europe.
Where to find Wild thyme
This perennial herb flourishes most favourably upon free-draining, neutral to alkaline rich substrates, such as sands, limestone, chalk and gravel. Therefore, the wild thyme is often found on heaths, sand dunes, downland, cliffs, and even mountain ledges. It is also an extremely hardy species, being especially frost and wildlife tolerant, as well as requiring minimal water to survive. The wild thyme’s only weakness is extreme humidity, where ample air circulation is required for optimum health.
The characteristics of this low to zero maintenance plant show why it is a favourite staple among wild meadow cultivators and the Meadowmat concept.
This hardy, evergreen plant happily survives all year round, even in gaps between patio slabs, and generally blooms around June to July time.
A good plant for attracting wildlife
As well as being low maintenance and providing a beautiful blanket of colour, the wild thyme attracts a whole host of fauna. Bees are particularly fond of this plant, especially the honey bee and red mason bee. Other common visitors include many species of butterflies and moths, as well as their associated predators, such as small, garden birds.
Using Wild thyme in the home
The most obvious use for this herbaceous perennial is in cooking, where it’s fragrant scent and taste can be used as a beautiful seasoning, particularly for poultry and pork. Medicinal uses for wild thyme and its oils include as a digestive tonic and mild antiseptic.