Golden thyme cultivars

For some while we have been questioning whether the native golden leaved thymes have been assigned to the correct species.  Although they are lemon scented, their growth pattern differs considerably from that of Thymus citriodorus and its cultivars such as T. citriodorus 'Golden King' and T. citriodorus 'Golden Queen', which tend to grow as a large loose bush.  However, the golden leaved thymes grow as a compact bush, readily root at the leaf nodes and are similar to the native T. pulegioides.

Thymus citriodorus 'Archers Gold' was collected by Bill Archer in Somerset and T. citriodorus 'Bertram Anderson' was named by Joe Elliott in honour of his friend E.B. Anderson.  Presumably they considered that as these thymes were lemon scented they must therefore be T. citriodorus and so gave them cultivar names within that species.  The Golden Thyme DNA Study has confirmed that these golden leaved thymes are in fact T. pulegioides.  These thymes have now been renamed as cultivars of T. pulegioides.  Two other golden leaved thymes, formerly assigned to T. citriodorus, with the cultivar names 'Aureus' and 'Golden Dwarf' have also been reclassified under T. pulegioides.


T. pulegioides 'Archer's Gold'

The golden thyme known as T. vulgaris 'Aureus', which is thyme scented, has also been assigned to the wrong species.  Thymus vulgaris is not a native species, having been introduced by the Romans and is not fully hardy in Britain, particularly in the north.  The growth pattern of this thyme is unlike that of T. vulgaris, it does not key out to T. vulgaris and it is similar to T. pulegioides.  The Golden Thyme DNA Study has confirmed this and it is now known as T. pulegioides 'Goldentime'.


T. pulegioides 'Goldentime'.

There are two other lemon scented thymes which are not now available in the nursery trade, but are mentioned in old catalogues and in Index Hortensis and which were wrongly assigned to T. serpyllum.  The Golden Thyme DNA Study has shown that these thymes are also T. pulegioidesThymus serpyllum 'Aureus' is now T. pulegioides 'Elliott's Gold' (the earliest reference is Six Hills Nursery) and T. serpyllum 'Citriodorus' is now T. pulegioides 'Lemon King'.

Although initially these new names are likely to cause some confusion, as golden thymes are so readily available from most garden centres and many nurseries, it is important that the correct specific name is used from now on.  We hope that gardeners will adopt these new names.

Modified version of Golden thyme cultivars, first published in Plant Heritage Vol. 9 No. 1 Spring 2002.

Photographs ©  Mrs. Margaret Easter, no copying or reproduction permitted.

Introduced November 2001, last updated May 2007