Lavender is the name of about 20 species of small bushes that bear fragrant flowers and leaves. Lavender belongs to the mint family. It grows wild in Mediterranean countries and is widely cultivated.
Lavender bushes grow from 3 to 4 feet (91 to 120 centimeters) high. They have long, narrow, pale-green leaves and pale purple flowers. This shade of purple is called lavender after the flowers. The flowers grow in clusters around the stem. When dried, they keep their fragrance for a long time.
Lavender comes from a Latin word that means to wash. This name may have been used because the ancient Romans used the leaves and flowers of the plant to scent their bathwater. Women once routinely stored dried lavender flowers with their linens and clothing. Today, the dried flowers are used in fragrant sachets (powders) and potpourris (mixtures). The flowers also are distilled to make oil that is used in some perfumes.