The Q&A Archives: Oregano Or Marjoram

Question: I read in a book that Americans confuse oregano and marjoram, and that you can't be assured what you buy when you buy the plants or seeds. How can I tell the difference in taste and plant structure when I want to plant either herb?

Answer: Both plants belong to the genus Origanum, which may be where the confusion begins. Origanum Majorana, sweet marjoram, is a tender perennial, usually grown as an annual. It has a dense, shallow root system and an unusually bushy habit. Its square stems branch frequently and are covered with small hairs. The flowers have knotlike shapes before blossoming and the flower stalks have three to five flowers. The leaves are fuzzy and pale green. Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is also a perennial but grows upright with erect, hairy, square stems. The flowers are 1/4 inch long, and tubular, borne on 1 inch spikelettes. The leaves are oval and pointed. Hope this information helps clear the confusion!

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