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What Does Basil Look Like? (Explained With Pictures)

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Last updated on September 23rd, 2022 at 02:28 pm

The appearance of plants is the easiest way to identify them. As a result, gardeners use appearance to tell plants apart.

However, basils can be easily mistaken for other herbs in the garden. This confusion makes basil cultivators ponder how to identify basils with their looks.

What does basil look like?

The fresh basil leaves have a glossy green appearance with an ovoid shape. The size of the leaf is about 1-2 inches long and 0.5 to 3 inches wide, with a pointed tip. However, this may vary depending on the variety of the plant.

The most common type of basil is sweet basil, and its features are standard, having green leaves and all.

Other varieties of basil sometimes differ in the color of their leaves by their different shades of green or a new color entirely like the dark opal basil and Purple Ruffle basil.

What Does Holy Basil Look Like?

Holy Basil

The holy basil is a pretty popular variety of the basil plant known exclusively for its medicinal properties. It has a specific spiritual context in Hinduism, referred to as the Tulsi.

Although the holy basil looks pretty similar to the regular type of basil, certain features distinguish this variety of basil, and they would be pretty easy to identify.

From leaf size to stem appearance, here are a few things to look out for to identify the holy basil and set it apart from other basil varieties.

1. The holy basil leaf has a light green sheen with sharp edges at the end of the leaves. Some types of holy basil have purple leaves though this is less common.

2. The holy basil grows to a height of about 12 inches to a maximum height of 24 inches, and the stems of the sacred basil are hairy.

3. Another distinct feature of the holy basil is its flowers which may be white, purple, or pink.

What Does Thai Basil Look Like?

Thai Basil

The Thai basil is another sturdy variety of the basil plant and is sometimes confused with the holy basil, called the Thai holy basil.

However, there is a difference between Thai basil and holy basil. It is known for its characteristic scent, ideal for most basils as it is an aromatic herb.

However, the Thai basil has a particular flavor similar to anise and licorice. The Thai basil leaves grow to a length of about 1 to 2 inches long.

Although they are narrow, they have saw-like edges like the holy basil though theirs are scantier than those of the holy basil.

Another distinct characteristic of the Thai basil is its purple stem. This feature is one of the clear giveaways of this variety of basil.

Thai basil also blooms with purple flowers that are coated pink within.

What Does Sweet Basil Look Like?

Sweet Basil

Sweet basil is arguably the most popular variety of the basil plant, having many benefits and being used in many culinary dishes worldwide.

The sweet basil is mostly the basil you would encounter more because of its abundance.

However, this may vary based on your location as some parts of the world favor other basil varieties instead and would have them more.

The abundant sweet basil is mainly described, tagging it as having the standard basil appearance.

The sweet basil group, which houses the Napoletano, romanesco, and Medinette types, has a lovely scent, and they grow to about 12 to 18 inches tall.

The scent differs amongst these three basil types, and the leaves also vary slightly. For instance, the Napoletano has the broadest leaves of any basil type, while the others have a more compact leaf structure.

They all have a glossy green appearance of the leaves, and the flowers can sometimes be purple or white.

What Does Lemon Basil Look Like?

Lemon Basil

Lemon basil is another popular variety of basil plants in some parts.

The lemon basil can grow up to 20 inches and have narrow green leaves with edges that appear serrated slightly.

The leaves of the basil have a lemon-anise flavor and grow in pairs. The lemon basil blooms a white flower during the blooming season.

What Do You Use Basil For?

The basil is one of the most populous herbs in the world. This is only possible because of the numerous benefits derived from the plant.

Some basils are even referred to as sacred in some parts of the world due to their medicinal purposes.

From culinary enhancements to medicine, here are some of the benefits of the basil plant.

1. One widespread use of the basil plant is ornamental. Different varieties of basils have other fragrances and extra leaf and flower types sometimes.

2. You can plant the basils in your garden or a potted vase for beautification around your home.

3. The basil is also a popular topping on many meals because of its flavor. For example, they can be used on salad dressings, pizza toppings, and served sauce.

4. You can also make the basil into basil pesto which can be easily preserved and used on eggs and bread spreads and used in making olive oil with various uses.

In summary, the basil serves as an excellent culinary condiment and can do well in most dishes. So having them around to add to the flavor of your food is not such a bad idea.

This implies that it is safe to consume basil, and there are numerous health benefits of the basil plant. Moreover, it is not called a medicinal herb in some parts of the show.

Below are some of the basil’s medicinal benefits:
Basil aid in digestion
Basil strengthens the immune system.
Basil is effective in treating sore throats.
Basil reduces the effects of a fever.
Basil is anti-inflammatory.

Though, they should not be substituted for commonly prescribed medication and should instead be used with them after running it through by your doctor.

Some basil plants also serve as a therapeutic medicine in some parts of the world.

What Does Basil Smell Like?

One of the reasons basil is so popular is as a result of its scent. Basil is a popular aromatic herb. As such, its fragrance is at the forefront of its characteristics.

The basil is not the only aromatic herb. As a result, giving a vague description of its pleasant fragrance isn’t enough to tell us precisely how they smell and differ from other aromatic herbs.

There are many varieties of basil plants, and each has varying degrees in the intensity of its scent and, surprisingly, its flavor. However, most of them do tend to smell similar.

Basils that have an unpleasant smell may be due to external factors like foul-smelling objects being dumped on them, or it could result from cultivating a basil variety that is not the best for consumption.

1. Most common basil types smell a lot like licorice. This is common in most varieties of the plant type due to the presence of anethole – a chemical compound. The Thai basil and the licorice basil variety smell a lot like this.

2. Most basil varieties also do tend to smell like anise, and this is another familiar scent of the basil plant due to the chemical compound anethole in them.

3. Some varieties of basil like the sweet, Genovese, Nufar, Red Rubin, and Cuban basil have a clove-like fragrance, and it is usually powerful in them.

4. The lemon basil and the cinnamon basil have different unique scents, with the former having a lemon smell.

This smell is due to the presence of limonene and citral compounds, and the latter has a cinnamon-type scent due to cinnamate in it.

The scent of basil is so vast because of the different varieties of the plant. Therefore, one cannot attribute a particular smell to every type of basil. 

However, most basils tend to have licorice or amine-type scent.


The basil has about 50-150 varieties of the plant. Although only a few out of that number are edible and domestic, the number is still considered.

This makes it somewhat difficult to pin down the exact look or smell of the basil because they are not always identical. However, they do share specific unique characteristics.

Most of the basils have green leaves and serrated edges; however, the shades of green and size of the leaf may differ.

The fragrance of the basil is mostly licorice, anise, or clover; however, the intensity varies, and some basils may not even have any of them at all and would smell entirely different.

The basil is a fantastic herb, resilient with a lot of benefits. If you plan to get one planted, pick the suitable variety you would love the fragrance and go for it!


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