Artemisia vulgaris

Mugwort

Botanical description: In vacant lots, gardens, sidewalk cracks, and along the base of buildings, Mugwort can be found nearly everywhere in the city. If left unchecked, Artemisia vulgaris can form large monocultures, with a dense system of rhizomatous roots. It can populate new locations through its wind-dispersed seed, which it produces in great quantity, preferring alkaline soils, rich with nitrogen. Mugwort grows to four feet and due to the white, woolly undersides of leaves, looks silvery when the wind blows through a colony. The density of flower spikes produced in autumn can cause the entire plant to bend under the weight. The deeply lobed leaves of Artemisia vulgaris resemble the leaves of chrysanthemum with a similar strong, pungent fragrance. Mugwort has a long history of use in herbal medicine and Chinese acupuncture for a litany of ailments - from intestinal disorders to depression. In Europe, plants were thought to ward away evil spirits and protect people from fatigue, wild beasts, and sunstroke. Artemisia was used to season meat and to impart a bitter flavor to beer - resulting in its common name, mugwort. Leaves were dried and made into tea or smoked by sailors, as an inexpensive alternative to tobacco.