Native Basil—an Endangered Plant for the Kitchen!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Did you know there is a species of basil native to South Florida? Ocimum campechianum is known by many common names, like wild sweet basil, wild mosquito plant, Least basil, Peruvian basil, and a few others. It is native, though not endemic, to extreme southern Florida. While it has become quite rare here—unfortunately earning the status of Endangered from the USDA—it is more common throughout parts of tropical America, including the West Indies.

This annual grows to about 18 inches to two feet tall and produces small pink flowers on terminal clusters similar to traditional basil (Ocimum basilicum), and in fact the two are members of the same genus, Ocimum.

Native basil seems to prefer rocky, sandy areas with exposure to direct sunlight—a common setting in South Florida. Being an annual, it lives for about ten months to a year, but can reseed itself continuously, providing a supply of native edible basil.

According to our Senior Horticulturist Mary Collins, “It yields an incredible warm, spicy aroma . . . the warmer its location, the more intense the fragrance.”

Ocimum campechianum

Native basil, Ocimum campechianum.
Photo: Mary Collins

I’ve searched a bit on the web for seeds and plants, but have come up with nothing. Otherwise, our native basil will be offered for sale at the Members’ Day Plant Sale on October 5, 2013, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Event details can be seen at

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