(Science: botany) A species of the genus Myrtus, especially Myrtus communis. The common myrtle has a shrubby, upright stem, eight or ten feet high. Its branches form a close, full head, thickly covered with ovate or lanceolate evergreen leaves. It has solitary axillary white or rosy flowers, followed by black several-seeded berries. The ancients considered it sacred to venus. The flowers, leaves, and berries are used variously in perfumery and as a condiment, and the beautifully mottled wood is used in turning.
The name is also popularly but wrongly applied in America to two creeping plants, the blue-flowered periwinkle and the yellow-flowered moneywort. In the west Indies several myrtaceous shrubs are called myrtle. Bog myrtle, the sweet gale. Crape myrtle. See Crape.
(Science: botany) See bayberry tallow, under Bayberry. Sand myrtle, a low, branching evergreen shrub (Leiophyllum buxifolium), growing in new Jersey and southward. Wax myrtle (myrica cerifera). See Bayberry.
Origin: F. Myrtil bilberry, prop, a little myrtle, from myrte myrtle, L. Myrtus, murtus, Gr.; cf. Per. Mrd.