Bible hyssop / Origanum syriacum L. / زعتر بري
Origanum syriacum is one of several species of plants that have been putatively identified to be the famous hyssop mentioned in the bible. It is a fragrant dwarf shrub from lamiaceae family, 30-60 cm tall, bearing small, greyish, hairy elliptical leaves. The plant bears larger leaves in winter and smaller ones in summer. The flowers are very small, white, with stamens protruding out of the corolla. The hyssop is most common in sunny Mediterranean habitats. It blooms between April and September, peaking in May and June, and provides an important source of nectar for bees during late spring-early summer months. The bible hyssop is well known for its many culinary uses in levantine cuisines. It is the preferred main ingredient of za'atar, a condiment containing also sesame seeds and sumac, used to season breads and a great variety of dishes. For culinary use, the plant is usually collected in spring, bearing mature winter leaves that have accumulated higher concentrations of aromatic substances. The plant has also many traditional medicine uses. Its infusion has been used for the treatment of common cold, cough, skin conditions and intestinal parasites. The plant is traditionally believed to possess anti-coagulant and disinfectant properties. Some of the aromatic substances in the plant have indeed proven to possess antibacterial activity. The bible hyssop is native to the Levant region. It grows throughout Palestine, except in the Dead Sea Valley. Although originally common, it has become intensively collected for private and commercial use, including export abroad, and is nowadays very rare in some parts of the country. It is also grown in commercial cultivation.
Other names: Wild Thyme, Mother of Thyme, Lebanese oregano, Syrian Oregano, Za'atar.
IUCN red list status: not evaluated
Local status: least concern