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This species is related to the true lavender (L. angustifolia) but quite distinct from it. It is more of a sub-shrub, developing a shorter wood base, though producing annual stems as long as or longer than in its ally. The leaves are relatively broader (from four to six times as long as wide), plane, oblong or spathulate, long-tapered to the base, those on the flowering stems eventually green as in the true lavender but the lower ones permanently silvery and densely clustered. The flowering stems are usually branched, i.e., secondary flowering spikes are produced on each side of the principal one. The most marked difference, however, is to be found in the inflorescence. Whereas in the true lavender the bracts subtending the flower-clusters are ovate in outline, brown and numerously veined, those of the spike lavender are green and awl-shaped and only the central vein is conspicuous; the bracteoles are always well developed and similar to the bract, though shorter. The calyx is covered with rather short hairs and is never woolly as in the true lavender and the corollas are somethat smaller. The spike is usually more slender, and the flowering time is, at least in France, two or three weeks later than that of the true lavender.
L. latifolia is a native of the western Mediterranean region. It is more warmth-loving than the true lavender, not ascending in France to more than 2,000 ft. The oil it yields (oleum spicae, in France called ‘essence d’aspic’) is inferior to that of the true lavender and of a different chemical composition, but is used in perfumery. The fragrance of the crushed calyx is pleasant, resembling that of the true lavender but with an intermixture of camphor.
The true spike lavender is rare in gardens but was known to Philip Miller, who said it was cultivated in a few gardens in his time but ‘does not often produce flowers’. It is one parent of the so-called Dutch lavenders, and perhaps of other garden varieties. See further under L. angustifolia.