Myrtle, a family of about 3,000 species of shrubs and trees. Most species are aromatic and most are native to tropical or semitropical regions. The common myrtle, native to the Mediterranean area, is the only European representative of a genus of about 100 species that are mostly native to tropical South America with some growing in Australia and New Zealand. It is an evergreen shrub 3 to 10 feet (90 cm to 3m) high, with small, oval or lance-shaped leaves. The white flowers are followed by black berries. Myrtle oil, derived from myrtle leaves, is used in medicines, perfumes, and flavors. The bark is used in leather tanning. Myrtle is raised as a hedge in Florida and as a garden shrub in California.
The common myrtle was sacred to Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and beauty, and was used for decorations in her festivals.
In the United States, several plants of unrelated families are called myrtle. These include the sand myrtle, which grows along the Atlantic coast southward from New Jersey; the crape myrtle, which grows in the southern states; and the Dutch myrtle (or bog myrtle) and wax myrtle. The blue-flowered periwinkle and yellow-leaved moneywort are often called myrtle.
The common myrtle is Myrtus communis of the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. The sand myrtle is Leiophyllum buxifolium of the heath family, Ericaceae. Crape myrtle is Lagerstroemia indica of the loosestrife family, Lythraceae. Wax myrtle is Myrica cerifera and Dutch myrtle is M. gale; both are of the wax myrtle family, Myricaceae.