Artemisia vulgaris

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Artemisia vulgaris L.

Asteraceae

Life form: perennial
Usage: economic plant

Exposure: sun   3

Moisture: dry bis Moisture: moderately moist

Soil: sandy loam - Soil: gritty loam - Soil: sandy clay - Soil: loamy clay

Arrangement: alternate
Leaves: decidious

Shape: ovate

Division: simple

Shape: many-stellate
Fruit: achene

3A / f8da21 

Inflorescence: panicle

Petals: not specified
Habit: not specified

Growth form: stemless

Taxonomy

Divisio:
Magnoliophyta
Subdivisio:
Magnoliophytina
Classis:
Rosopsida
Subclassis:
Asteridae
Superordo:
Asteranae
Ordo:
Asterales

Artemisia vulgaris, commonly known as Mugwort, is a perennial with slightly aromatic leaves.

Naming

Artemisia vulgaris was described in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus. The name is considered as validly published.

Taxonomy

The Mugwort is is the type species of the genus Artemisia (sagebrush) which contains approximately 521 to 696 species and belongs to the family of the Asteraceae (Aster Family).

on drier sites
Artemisia vulgaris leaves photo file 533KB.jpg
Spices by the wayside: mugwort and rose hips
"ruderals"

Characteristics

Growth

The plants grow to heights of 0,6 to 2 metres depending on the growing conditions. The stems are usually upright and scarcely pilose. The plants form tufts and do not produce runners.

Leaves

The alternate leaves are bi- to tripinnatisect and up to 5 (rarely 10) centimetres long and 2 to 3 centimetres wide. The are ovate in outline with a rough surface that is green above and white tomentose below.

Flowers and Fruit

Many small, rather inconspicuous flowerheads are arranged in terminal panicals. The whitish-grey, yellowish or auburn flowerheads are 2 to 4 millimetres in diameter. The ovate phyllaries are tomentose, the yellowish to auburn disc flowers are 1 to 3 millimetres long. The plants bloom from July to September.

The fruits are smooth achenes that are dark brown to black. They are up to 1 millimetre long and up to 0,3 millimetres wide.

Distribution

Artemisia vulgaris is most likely native to Eurasia and has probably spread during the late Neolithic as a "field weed". It is not possible to pinpoint its primal origin today since it has spread over almost all regions of the northern hemisphere aided by man. It can be found on rich soils in the wild, especially as a ruderal.

luxurious growing conditions near a compost heap

Cultivation

The Mugwort prefers a sunny site and can withstand temperatures down to -40º C (USDA zone 3). It likes fertile soils that are dry to moderately moist. The substrate should be have a pH between 6,5 and 7,5. It can often be found along waysides.

Classification after Prof. Dr. Sieber

  • open areas

Uses

The ornamental value of Artemisia vulgaris lies especially in its fragrance and the ornamental leaves. The recommended planting distance is 70 centimetres, the perennials are best planted in groups of 3 to 5. Artemisia vulgaris is used both medicinally and as a culinary herb. The flowerheads for example can be used to season potatoes or with rich meats. The bitter agents stimulate the production of gastric juice and bile which helps digestion.

Various native American tribes have used the plants in manifold ways. As a tea or decoction, in compresses or steam baths they were used to treat colds, pleurisy, sore muscles, minor cuts and a wide range of "female disorders". The leaves were carried a charms against personal injury and to ward off ghosts.[1]

Be careful when planting the species in a herb garden since they burst out of proportion on fertile soil. Less vigorous or slower growing cultivars, especially those with variegated leaves, are also suited for mixed perennial borders.

Varities and Cultivars

Poisonousness

Mugwort has been used to treat digestive problems, epilepsy and various female diseases already in ancient times and the Middle Ages. Nowadays it is only used in phytotherapy. Some agents (e.g. thujone) are toxic which make their continued application or higher dosage very doubtful. The essential oils should not be used in aromatherapy since they are toxic as well. The drug is known as Artemisiae herba or Herba Artemisiae and is made of dried flowers harvested during bloom.[2]

Aeskulap  Please read the health issues note

Man and Artemisia vulgaris

Superstition

Mugwort was believed to be a powerful instrument for and against witchcraft in the Middle Ages and made part of many so-called magic potions. The Teutons would wear bealts made out of mugwort that had been harvested on St John's Eve. They were supposed to ward of demons and evil spells. Pliny the Elder suggested that a twig tied to a leg would drive away fatigue. Hanging a branch off the roof ridge with the tips down supposedly held off lightning and plague.[2]

References

Literature

  • Walter Erhardt, Erich Götz, Nils Bödeker, Siegmund Seybold: Der große Zander. Eugen Ulmer KG, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-8001-5406-7. (Ger.)
  • Christoper Brickell (Editor-in-chief): RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Third edition. Dorling Kindersley, London 2003, ISBN 0-7513-3738-2.

Footnotes

  1. Artemisia vulgaris in Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan
  2. 2.0 2.1 Beifuß Wikipedia, List of the authors (ger.)

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