Wild Thyme. Botanical: Thymus serpyllum. Family: Labiatae. The Wild Thyme is indigenous to the greater part of the dry land of Europe. It is found up to a certain height on the Alps, on high plateaux, and in valleys, along ditches and roads, on rocks, in barren and dry soil, and also in damp clay soil destitute of chalk. In England it is found chiefly on heaths and in mountainous situations.
The specific name, serpyllum, is derived from a Greek word meaning to creep, and has been given it from its usually procumbent and trailing habit. The plant flowers from the end of May or early June to the beginning of autumn.
The herb wherever it grows wild denotes a pure atmosphere, and was thought to enliven the spirits by the fragrance which it diffuses into the air around.
Francis Bacon directs that alleys should be planted with fragrant flowers: 'burnet, wild thyme and watermints, which perfume the air most delightfully being trodden upon and crushed,' so that you may 'have pleasure when you walk or tread.'
Thyme has also been associated with death. It is one of the fragrant flowers planted on graves. An old tradition says that Thyme was one of the herbs that formed the fragrant bed of the Virgin Mary.
The name Thyme, in its Greek form, was first given to the plant by the Greeks as a derivative of a word which meant 'to fumigate,' either because they used it as incense, for its balsamic odour, or because it was taken as a type of all sweet-smelling herbs. Others derive the name from the Greek word thumus, signifying courage, the plant being held in ancient and mediaeval days to be a great source of invigoration, its cordial qualities inspiring courage. Pliny tells us that, when burnt, it puts to flight all venomous creatures.