The spike lavender, lat. Lavendula latifolia, also known as Spanish lavender, broad-leaved lavender, spice lavender or large spike. Like the narrow-leaved lavender, it belongs to the family of labiates (lat. Lamiaceae).
The evergreen shrub reaches an average height of 60-70cm with opposite leaves. These are elongated and elliptically shaped. The leaves and also the flowers are partly very hairy, which makes the shrub appear white-greyish. The inflorescences are arranged in false whorls, which resemble an ear in their appearance.
The plant has its origin in the western Mediterranean, especially in France, Italy, Spain and the Balearic Islands. Today it can be found all over the Mediterranean, although unlike the real lavender it can be grown below 700m. The plant prefers (rocky) limestone soils with lots of sun. The flowering time starts in August and lasts until September. The harvest should be done before it reaches its full flowering stage. The plant should be harvested in the morning or after a rainfall, as the flowers already contain a naturally increased water content. This has a positive effect on the steam distillation. Today's harvesting methods use fully automated machines to harvest the flowers with stems.
The oil is contained in excretion containers between the cuticle (wax layer) and the cell membrane of the flowers. The flowers with stems are broken down with hot water and steam: the essential oil escapes from the oil containers of the flowers and is dissolved with the steam. If the water/oil mixture is cooled down, phase separation occurs due to the different densities. The lavender oil can therefore be easily decanted and bottled.
Due to the thermal energy supplied in the process, water-soluble substances are also extracted. These substances and a low limiting concentration of essential oils remain in the water and produce the so called hydrolate or flower water. This water gets returned to the process.
The essential oil is not as intense in fragrance as of the real lavender. It contains less esters like linaly acetate, but more monoterpenes (alcohols, ketones) like linalool, 1-8 cineol and camphor. With lavender oil, it is above all the ester content that is decisive for the quality: the higher, the better.
In general, the application areas of spike lavender oil and real lavender oil are the same, whereby spike lavender oil must not be used as medicine. It is used in the kitchen as a spice or as a fragrance dispenser.
The scent of broad-leaved lavender is weak in comparison to real lavender. As it is a very robust plant, it is suitable for crossing with the true lavender.
Here one tries to combine the advantages of both plants: Robustness towards the environment with high yield and quality. The cross between these two basic plants is the lavandin.
Spike oil has often been stretched with chemical substances to come close to the real lavender oil. These synthetically added substances can only be found with the help of complex analytical methods.