Forage Oreganillo

The common name “oreganillo” is applied to a number of different plants. And before we get too much further in this article, I am referring to the species I grew up with here in the Tucson area – Aloysia wrightii.

Common Name is all too Common

Oreganillo is  Spanish for any plant that has oregano (orégano) like characteristics.


If you go to Northeastern Mexico, the name oreganillo is used for Brickellia veronicifolia – found from Texas south into Mexico. It is also used for Turnera diffusa found from Texas, and on down into South America.

On a plant collecting trip in Catamarca, Argentina I came across an oregano scented shrub.  I was assured by a local llama herder, “Es oreganillo.  Es muy bueno!”  So, having all the proper permits, I collected some and later determined that it was Aloysia catamarcensis.

Over in Chile, oreganillo can refer to the Chilean native Aloysia trifida, but also another Chilean native Aloysia deserticola.

Columbia has its own native oreganillo growing in a remote area that I wanted to get to because it also had a unique species of Tagetes – the marigold genus that I was working on at the time.  That is a tale for another time. Specifically – on Thursday April 4 2024 (4/4/24) at 12:00 in the University of Arizona Herbarium as part of their Brown Bag Lunch series. Zoom option available. Drop us a note in the chat (way down below) if you want the link.


“Our” Oreganillo

In our corner of the Southwest, oreganillo is Aloysia wrightii, and it is a lovely low-water plant that be found in a wide variety of areas.  But in reality – it generally grows where it gets a little extra water – like in the canyons of Organ Pipe National Monument.  It is also found in Southern California and eastward into Texas.

A Kino Herb

Aloysias were in use by native tribes long before Europeans came on the scene.    In 1687, when Father Kino was sent to our area to help colonize it for Spain, he was delighted to discover numerous herbs reminiscent of European herbs, including Aloysia.    Unlike many missionaries, he did not view Native herbs as heathen plants to be eradicated, instead he encouraged their planting in the mission gardens and their use in the kitchens and infirmaries of the missions of this area, then known as the Pimería Alta.

About 100 NEW copies left!

soule-kino-southwestThe last few copies of this out-of-print award winning Southwestern book are now for sale. Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today   The review says:

“Award-winning garden writer Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule has pulled together a fascinating book on the life of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and some of the plants that he brought to Southern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, and area called the Pimeria Alta.”

A steal at only $22!  This link is to our sales site. The profits from the sale go to the local Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute.  We hope you will help support this great Southwest non-profit!

Forage Oreganillo

Harvest your oreganillo leaves for drying anytime of year.    I prefer to harvest early in the morning on the day following a good monsoon rain.    Then the leaves have been rinsed clean of debris and I know the plant has ample moisture to recover from my depredations.


I dry many of my herbs in large terra cotta plant-pot saucers.   More on drying herbs in this post.

Rinse herbs, on the plant or in the sink, gently pat dry, and place them in the saucer one layer deep.    Place the saucer out of direct sunlight, indoors or out, and in three days to a week they should be dry enough for storage in a sealed jars.


Because you want to savor the Southwest we hope to share many ways to use this tasty herb.

Aloysia leaves can be used fresh but may taste mildly bitter.    Like bay leaves, drying appears to eliminate some of the bitter flavor.savor-the-southwest-grill-zucchini

Use your dried Aloysia anywhere you would use dried oregano, but you may want to use a little less at first because home-grown and freshly dried herbs have stronger richer flavors than their store bought cousins.

Occasionally I cut a handful of twigs and leaves to give the barbecue grill a good scrub before cooking.    This helps clean the grill and leaves some tasty oils to flavor what we grill. Tastes great when you are about to do some grilled zucchini “planks.”

And in another grilling post, on asparagus, Uncle Smokey says to not use it.  He says it is too strong for the delicate flavor of asparagus.

There will be a post about growing Aloysia on Gardening With Soule (but not written yet).

Legal Notes

© Article copyright Savor the Southwest // Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.


The authors of this website have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.

Be the first to reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *