Texas Lavender?

Oct 8, 08:48 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

Over the past several years, there's been a great deal of excitement in the aromatherapy community regarding the appearance of lavender farms in Texas. Most of these farms are in the Hill Country, which has a climate similar to the Mediterranean; a few are located around the towns of Hico and Greenville as well.

These operations are becoming popular weekend destinations for tourism and do a good business in cut lavender and nursery plants. Increasing numbers of farms have started small scale distillation operations and are beginning to produce personal care products using their essential oil. Everyone is happily advertising their "real French lavender". However, there is no Texas true lavender crop as of this writing.

These growers are actually cultivating Lavandula x intermedia (aka Lavandula hybrida), commonly known as lavendin. Lavendin is a sterile hybrid of Lavandula augustifolia (true lavender) and Lavandula latifolia (spike lavender). Although it belongs to the lavender genus, it is not true lavender, and does not share the same phytochemical or therapeutic properties as true lavender. However, it does have a substantially higher essential oil yield than Lavandula augustifolia, and the plants, which are all produced via cloning, look much more impressive in the field than true lavender, which has an irregular growth habit when cultivated from seed (and still does not match lavendin for beauty when cloned). These benefits make the crop a more profitable endeavor for farmers. Most Texans are growing the lavendin Provence cultivar, and describing it as "French lavender", which is a nursery term, not an aromatherapy term.

Several members of the Texas aromatherapy community have approached various growers and asked that they label their essential oil and aromatherapy products correctly. While we have no objection to growers selling cut lavendin or nursery plants as "lavender", we do very much object to them selling personal care products and essential oils masquerading as lavender, since lavendin products do not share the same therapeutic action. Not to mention that this constitutes false advertising. So far, we have met with resistance, sometimes bordering on downright rudeness. As one of the irritated owners of Lavender Ridge Farm told me, "Who cares, nobody knows the difference anyway".

Please be aware of this situation, and do not purchase Texas "lavender" essential oil for therapeutic purposes. Enjoy Texas cut lavendin, dried lavendin buds, and plant some "lavender Provence" in your backyard. When true lavender essential oil is finally available, I'll be first in line to buy it!


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