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(myrtle), a genus of evergreen shrubs or trees of the family Myrtaceae. The leaves are opposite and entire, and the flowers are usually solitary, regular, and bisexual. The fruit is a berry. There are approximately 100 species of Myrtus, distributed primarily in subtropical and tropical America. Species are also encountered in Eurasia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. These plants, particularly the classic myrtle (Myrtus communis), have been cultivated widely in the Mediterranean region since ancient times. The classic myrtle, a decorative branching shrub, is up to 5 m high. It has ovate-lanceolate, acuminate, leathery leaves, and large (up to 3 cm in diameter), fragrant white or pink flowers. The fruits are blue-black. In the USSR the classic myrtle is grown in the Crimea and on the Black Sea shore of the Caucasus; further north it is cultivated as a house plant. The leaves and other parts of myrtle plants contain essential oils that are used to make perfumes. The dried and fresh fruits are used as flavorings in cooking.