There’s a tall plant in the Composite family (Asteraceae) that used to confuse me, especially in early summer. Here’s a trick for identifying mugwort. It’s everywhere right now.
Mugwort or common wormwood (Artemisia vulgaris) is an aromatic perennial native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa and Alaska(!). It may have been brought here for medicinal purposes, but it spreads easily along roadsides and waste places. I’m surprised it’s not on Pennsylvania’s Invasives list.
In early summer when mugwort is knee high, it looks like chrysanthemums because its leaves are similar — sharply lobed. The trick for telling them apart is this: Look under the leaf. The underside of a mugwort leaf is white (above).
By late August mugwort is three to eight feet tall with insignificant green flowers clustered at the leaf joints and at the tips of the stems. The leaves near the flowers look different. They’re linear, not lobed.
But it isn’t beautiful.
In August a mugwort patch looks tall and messy.
Wondering what it is? Flip a leaf. It’s probably mugwort.
(photos by Kate St.John)