Rue (Ruta) is a genus of strongly scented evergreen subshrubs 20-60 cm tall, in the family Rutaceae, native to the Mediterranean region, Macronesia and southwest Asia. Different authors accept between 8-40 species in the genus. The most well-known species is the Common Rue.
The leaves are bipinnate or tripinnate, with a feathery appearance, and green to strongly glaucous blue-green in colour. The flowers are yellow, with 4-5 petals, about 1 cm diameter, and borne in cymes. The fruit is a 4-5 lobed capsule, containing numerous seeds.
It was used extensively in Middle Eastern cuisine in olden days, as well as in many ancient Roman recipes (according to Apicius), but because it is very bitter, it is usually not suitable for most modern tastes. However, it is still used in certain parts of the world, particularly in northern Africa.
Caution should be taken with using rue topically. When applied to the skin with sun exposure, the oil and leaves can cause blistering. Rue oil can cause severe stomach pain, vomiting and convulsions and may be fatal.
It was also planted by the gardener in Shakespeare's Richard II to mark the spot where the Queen wept upon hearing news of Richard's capture (III.4.104-105):
Rue is considered a national herb of Lithuania and it is the most frequently referred herb in Lithuanian folk songs, as an attribute of young girls, associated with virginity and maidenhood.
In mythology, the basilisk, whose breath could cause plants to wilt and stones to crack, had no effect on rue. Weasels who were bitten by the basilisk would retreat and eat rue in order to recover and return to fight.
Sofia Rotaru, famous Pop-singer, sang the superhit Chervona Ruta in 1971. After her performance, a number of musical bands, film (Chervona Ruta), organisations and companies were named on the territory of the former USSR. The name of the song comes from an old Ukrainian legend Chervona Ruta. the song Chervona Ruta (literally "red rue") became part of Ukrainian and Russian pop culture recently with rap arrangements.
The progressive metal band Symphony X named a song "Absinthe and Rue" on their first album, Symphony X, and Kathleen Battle, American soprano, has recorded the song cycle "Honey and Rue" written by composer Andre Previn in collaboration with the Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison.
Many traditional English folk songs use rue to symbolise regret. Often it is paired with thyme: thyme used to symbolise virginity, and rue the regret supposed to follow its loss.