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Herbs - Roots - Vegetables
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Ruta - Common Rue, Herb-of-Grace
Ruta graveolens

RUE. Aromatic perennial herbs or under-shrubs, comprising the genus Ruta (roo'ta) of the family Rutaceae, all the 40 known species from Eurasia or the Canary Islands. The common rue, R. graveolens, is usually the only one in culture. It is an evergreen under-shrub or woody herb, with twice-compound, alternate leaves, the ultimate leaflets small. Flowers dull yellow, about 1/2 in. wide, in a terminal cluster (a loose cyme*). Petals 5, concave, fringed on the margin. Stamens* 8-10. Fruit a 4-5-lobed capsule.0 Southern Eu. Cult, for centuries, and once called herb of grace because it was associated with repentance. For cult. see Herb Gardening. The moist foliage is an irritant to some, especially in the heat of summer. (Ruta is the old Latin name of the rue.) For meadow rue see Thalictrum.


  • Family: Rutaceae
  • Genus: Ruta
  • Species: graveolens
  • Category: Herbs
  • Height: 18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
  • Spacing: 15-18 in. (38-45 cm)
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun or partial shade
  • Danger: All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested. Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction (photodermatitis)
  • Bloom Color: Bright yellow, 4-petalled, cup-shaped
  • Bloom Time: Mid summer (June to August)
  • Foliage: Evergreen; blue-green, pinnatisect, ovate, scented leaves
  • Other details: May be a noxious weed or invasive
  • Country of Origin: Southern Europe
  • Habitat: Rocks, old walls and dry hills, mainly on limestone
  • Description: A hardy evergreen herb

Rue has a long history in Europe, it was used to sprinkle holy water before high mass, which is where it earned the common name "Herb of Grace". It was used as a strewing herb, an anti-plague herb and as an insecticide/pesticide. Also once believed to be a witchcraft and an anti-witchcraft plant. It has been used in medicine in the past and still has some uses today but should only be used under STRICT medical supervision. Never use when pregnant!

Homeopaths use a tincture of Rue in the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism and neuralgia. Herbalists might prescribe it for blood pressure problems, nervous problems, sciatica and epilepsy, they may use Rue in compresses for skin ulcers. It also has antiseptic properties. It was once used as an eye bath and as an antidote to some poisons, insect stings and snake bites. Its' roots yield a red dye.

It does have a culinary use if used sparingly but it is incredibly bitter and my note above about severe discomfort on ingestion is possible, its not a herb that suits everyone and there are better culinary herbs out there to use. Rue is a traditional flavouring used in Greece and other Mediterranean countries. In Istria, there is a Grappa / Rakija that recipe that has sprig of rue (as shown in the left illustration). The plant produces seeds that can be used for partridge. The bitter leaf can be added to eggs, cheese, fish, or mixed with damson plums and wine to produce a meat sauce. Ornamentaly Rue, is used as a low hedge and the leaves can be used in nosegays.

A curious note: rue and mint don't grow well together, Rue is often the plant to come off worse from the pairing.


The rue or citrus family comprises a few unimportant genera of little cultural value, and a group of perhaps the most important fruit trees in the country (orange, grapefruit, lime, lemon, etc.) the citrus fruits. The family is a large one (140 genera and about 1500 species), mostly tropical, but the following shrubs and trees, mostly Eurasian or North American, are cult, outdoors in most of the U.S.: Evodia, Phellodendron, Poncirus (a hardy, inedible orange), Ptelea, and Zanthoxylum; Ruta and Dictamnus, largely herbaceous, are plants for the open border.

The rest of the cult, genera are all tropical or sub-tropical and are grown outdoors only in essentially frost-free parts of the country, or in greenhouses. Of these, Citrus and its related or pertinent genera (Citropsis, Fortunella, and Microcitrus) are by far the most important, because of their fruit, but edible fruit are also found in Casimiroa.

Other cult, genera, grown mostly for ornament, are: Boronia, Choisya (some nearly hardy northward), Cleonema, Correa, Diosma, Murraya, Severinia, Skimmia, and Triphasia.

Leaves mostly alternate,* simple* or compound* (in Citrus, Phellodendron, etc.), , usually with resinous or aromatic glands in them, which explains the generally fragrant odor of the crushed foliage. Flowers often very fragrant (orange blossom), but not often particularly showy, sometimes greenish and inconspicuous. Fruit various, a berry in the orange and its relatives, a dry pod (capsule*) in several genera and sometimes with a winged fruit (Ptelea).

Technical flower characters: Flowers mostly regular; dioecious in Phellodendron and Zanthoxylum. Sepals 4-5, often partly united. Petals 4-5, sometimes none. Stamens 8-10. Ovary superior.

Ruta-muraria (roo-ta-mu-rare'i-a). A wall rue.

ruthenica, -us, -urn (roo-thenn'i-ka). From Russia


  • Taylor's Encyclopedia Encyclopedia of Gardening, 4th Ed., Houghton Mifling Co. (Boston, 1961)
  • Photos - various websites.

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This page compliments of Marisa Ciceran

Created: Tuesday, November 30, 2004; Last updated: Sunday, January 20, 2013
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