For centuries, mugwort was used medicinally and as an aromatic bitter herb. Ancient Roman soldiers padded their sandals with it to cushion their feet. Throughout the centuries, it was used to fight malaria, digestive problems and certain women’s ailments. But, only the leaves or roots were consumed because the flowers produce pollen that triggers allergic rhinitis and asthma. Our ancestors understood that and harvested mugwort before it flowered. Today it’s used medicinally under a doctor’s watchful care because there are harmful side effects to its usage.
Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, belongs to the COMPOSITAE or ASTERACEAE family. Some varieties of this family are sagebrush and wormwood. It contains 300 species of evergreen and deciduous shrubs. They can be annuals or perennials. The plant is native throughout the Northern Hemisphere, South Africa and western South America. It grows in dry fields, prairies and thickets in Zones 3-8. Some varieties are invasive. It has gray or silvery green leaves. These feather-like leaves have various shapes. It produces tubular flowers that are reddish or brownish yellow.
Chicago gardeners, if you want to grow mugwort, choose a sunny location with fertile, well-drained and well-worked soil. Remove flowers as the flower buds appear. Cut back perennial mugwort to its base in autumn. When necessary in spring, cut it back severely to maintain its shape and keep it from becoming invasive.
Gardeners cultivate mugwort for its lovely, silvery leaves that enhance colorful flowers or create a monochromatic garden scheme with white flowers. It brightens a rock garden, and is sometimes grown in herb gardens for culinary uses. The small amounts used in cooking aren’t harmful.
Unlike ragweed pollen grains which are blown many thousands of miles, mugwort pollen travels less than 2,000 miles.
Live long and well—garden.
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