Thymus vulgaris


Digger wasp on Thymus vulgaris used with permission of dnnya.
Thymus vulgaris doesn't get along well with other plants. This is because plants with volatile oils create an alleopathic effect. It has a negative effect on surrounding organisms. Thyme leaches terpenes, a chemical made by plants, from other plants. As a result, other plants don't like to grow around it. Many times, there are bare spots surrounding the base of the plant. A study on the chemical make up of thymol conducted by Yan Linhart and John Thompson showed it successfully kept the number of competing plants down. This is important in arid regions because whoever gets more nutrients and water is more likely to survive. This study also showed that germination is slowed. By slowing the life cycle, other plants could germinate at the wrong time and die off.




Not many animals interact with thyme. Pollinators like bees, wasps and butterflies are a few of the few bugs that like Thymus vulgaris. Thymol has a bitter/bad taste and herbivores prefer to avoid eating. Not only does thymol have a better taste, the oil can even be toxic to predators. However, the toxicity varies between plants, and where it comes from in the plant. In their study, Linhart et al also examined the how the polymorphism effects the thyme. They concluded that herbivores would eat the plant, but more often choose other plants over thyme. Not all animals avoid thyme. For example, the Sinai Baton Blue butterfly, one of the world's smallest butterflies, only lives on wild patches of thyme in the Egypt.

Fungi & bacteria
Not much is known about thyme's interactions with fungi and bacteria, but thyme does have fungal and antibacterial properties. This hypothesis was supported in the study by Linhart et al, they found the numbers of bacteria and fungi were minimal when exposed to thymol. This experiment was only conducted in the laboratory(it would be difficult to test in nature).

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