Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council Plants Resource Page

Plant of the Month - Mugwort

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Plant Description

Common Name(s):Mugwort
Scientific Name:Artemisia douglasiana
Plant Type:Perennial
Size:up to 6 feet
Habitat:Riparian Woodlands
Blooms:July to November

Mugwort is most commonly found on stream banks where there is ample year-round moisture. It blooms from June to November, but may be more noted for its foliage than its flowers.

Mugwort has a woody base and erect gray-green stems. Propagation is usually by underground rhizome. The lance-shaped leaves are 2-6 inches long, smooth bright green above, woolly and gray-green underneath. The small roundish disk flowers sprout at the ends of dense leafy spikes. The plant is aromatic, smelling mediciney like a cross between sage and camphor.

Frequently found growing near Poison Oak, there is a tradition that suggests rubbing Mugwort leaves on skin after exposure to the urushiol poison may help, but science has not stepped forward to confirm or refute this practice. Likewise a poultice of its leaves may have some benefit for stinging nettles or insect bites.

The common name Mugwort comes from the contraction of "mug" and "wort", the latter being a term meaning plant or herb. The "mug" part is thought to refer to an insect; either tiny flying insects called midges, or moths, or maggots... the exact meaning is a mystery. The genus name Artemisia most likely refers to the Greek goddess Artemis, although Queen Artemisia of Halicarnassus in Asia Minor (Turkey) is another possible reference. The species name douglasiana is after the Scottish collector David Douglas.

Contributed by Liz Baumann

Other Similar Plants:
California Aster Corethrogyne filaginifolia
Giant Coreopsis Coreopsis gigantea
Coyote Brush Baccharis pilularis
Bush Sunflower Encelia californica
California Thistle Cirsium occidentale var. californ
Mule Fat Baccharis salicifolia
Canyon Sunflower Venegasia carpesioides
Golden Yarrow Eriophyllum confertiflorum
Slender Sunflower Helianthus gracilentus
Common Sunflower Helianthus annus
San Diego Milk-aster Stephanomeria diegensis
Perezia, Sacapellote Acourtia microcephala
Cliff Aster Malacothrix saxatilis
Tejon Milk-Aster Stephanomeria cichoriacea
Rock Daisy Perityle emoryi
California Goldfields Lasthenia californica
Royal or Southern Goldfields Lasthenia coronaria
Lyons Pentachaeta Pentachaeta lyonii
Annual Coreopsis Leptosyne bigelovii
Slender Tarweed Deinandra fasciculata
Common Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Sagebrush Artemisia californica
Telegraph Weed Hetertheca grandiflora

Originally featured: October 2012
Last modified: July 06 2017 04:00:51.
Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Images Botanical Terms for Leaves