Ocimum gratissimum

Ocimum gratissimum




Ocimum viridifiorum Roth, Ocimum suave Willd., Ocimum viride Willd.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Selaseh besar, ruku-ruku hitam.
English Shrubby basil, east Indian basil, Russian basil.
Indonesia Kemangi hutan, ruku-ruku rimba (Sumatra), selaseh mekah.
Cambodia Ling leak kranam.
Thailand Kaphrao-chang, horapha-chang, yira.
Vietnam H[uw][ow]ng nhu tr[aws]ng, [es]l[as] l[ows]n.
French Mentha gabonaise.

Geographical Distributions

O. gratissimum is found throughout the tropics and sub-tropics, both wild and cultivated. Its greatest variability occurs in tropical Africa (from where it possibly originates) and India. In South-East Asia it is cultivated mainly as a home garden crop, only in Vietnam is it grown on a commercial scale as well.


This aromatic, perennial herb is about 1-3 m tall with an erect stem, round-quadrangular and much- branched which are smooth or hairy. It is woody at the base, often with epidermis peeling in strips.

Leaves are arranged opposite. The stalk is 2-4.5 cm long, slender and hairy. The blade is elliptical to egg-shaped, size between 1.5-16 cm x 1-8.5 cm, thin and semi-transparent. Its base is triangular and entire, and they sometimes have glandular translucent gland. The other parts of its margin are coarsely crenate-serrate, apex acute, covered with down hairs or hairy.

Inflorescence is arranged in a terminal with simple or 5-30 cm long branched raceme. The leaflet is lax and softly hairy. Flower stalk is acuminate, sessile, egg-shaped size 3-12 mm x 1-7 mm, 1-4 mm long, spreading or ascending and slightly curved. The flowers are in clusters of 6-10, false whorl, small and hermaphrodite. The sepal is 2-lipped, 2-3 mm long, in fruit 5-6 mm and hairy. The upper lip is rounded and bent, abruptly bent in fruit while lower lip is with 4 narrow, pointed teeth. The central pair of teeth is minute and much shorter than the upper lip. The 2-lipped, greenish-white petal is bell-shaped size 3.5-5 mm long and hairy on the outside. The upper lip truncate with 4-fid while lower lip longer, bent, flat and entire. The stamens are 4, bent, in 2 pairs and inserted on the petal tube. Their filaments are distinctly protruding beyond, upper pair with a bearded tooth at the base. The ovary is superior, consisting of 2 fruits, each 2-celled and style 2-fid.

Fruit consisting of 4, dry, 1-seeded little nuts enclosed in the persistent sepal. The lower lip covers the mouth of the fruiting sepal. The little nuts are slightly spherical size 1.5 mm long, wrinkled and brown. The outer wall of ripened fruit does not become mucilaginous in water.

Ecology / Cultivation

In its native area O. gratissimum occurs from sea-level up to 1500 m altitude in coastal scrub, along lake shores, in savanna vegetation, in submontane forest, and disturbed land. In South-East Asia it is not frequently found in open locations like roadsides and clearings, but more often cultivated as a hedge plant, up to about 300 m altitude.

Line Drawing / Photograph



  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 19: Essential-oil plants.