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WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris.

Description of the Mugwort

The roots aromatic perennial with a branching rootstock which is tolerant of a wide range of soils, but is absent from shaded and sites that are regularly grazed. Rhizomes start to develop when the seedlings are about 4 weeks old with lateral branches being produced at about 9 week. The rhizomes are variable in their size from just a few millimetres thick up to 1 cm . The finer rhizomes produce but a few branches. These rhizomes can penetrate to a depth of 7-18 cm into the soil. When the stems die back in autumn they themselves produce a number of separate rhizomes that develop new shoots and over winter as low growing leaf rosettes

STEM AND LEAVES----Lower leaves are delicate and finely lobed, dark green above and silvery below with distinct veins. The margins on the under surface remain green giving the leaf an "outlined " look. The leaves are arranged alternately and have finger like lobes that are pointed at the tips. 

The stems are angular often tinged with a purplish red hues attaining the height of up to the height of 3-5 feet, depending on the growing situation. The stems are grooved. The foliage has a superficial resemblance to those of some garden chrysanthemums which gave rise to the plants country titles of chrysanthemum weed and wild chrysanthemum.

The leaves contain a phytotoxic growth and germination inhibitor. Foliar extracts have been used in the development of insect repellents .The plant was also said to be good as a moth deterrent. 

Top--foliage from below are silvery coloured--Below--Foliage upper surface.

photo-Dal

Mugwort flowers

Mugwort flowers from July until September. Both ray and disc florets are produced in more or less equal numbers. They are in small oval heads with cottony involucres and arranged in long terminal panicles..They tend to be of a reddish colour or pale yellow. They are borne on erect stems.

Flowers are clustered together near the ends of branches. Flowers are 3-4mm wide. The florets are female, the inner ones bisexual surrounded by cottony or woolly bracts. 

Top mugwort flowers just opening.

photographs by Dal

The new tightly grouped closed flower buds.

Medicinal and culinary uses of mugwort

Mugwort was once used in medicine much more than it is now. It has been used to flavour drinks, especially before the introduction of hops. It has been utilised in herbal preparations for insomnia, bruises, fever, indigestion and painful periods. It was said to have stimulant and slightly tonic properties. An infusion was prepared to aid digestion. The whole flowering plant was harvested. the dosage for infusions was recommended to be half an ounce {12.5gms} of dried herb to one pint {600mls} of water it was recommended to be taken as hot as possible for painful periods.

In Japan and China  mugwort is utilised for the production of moxa sticks. The heat produced by them was held near to the rhuematic area. In the last century many country folk used the leaves of mugwort as a substitute for tea. This was particularly so in Cornwall.

Mugwort should not be taken during pregnancy.

Any one interested in taking herbal medicine for the first time is well advised to read WILD HERB ADVISE {Click on the banner on the right hand side of this page}

For Historical information only---here is an extract from a herbal published in 1820----

"The leaves of mugwort are to be used fresh or dried. They are best given in the form of an infusion and they are excellent to promote menses and against all common hysteric complaints." 

Mugwort just before the flowering period

photographs-Dal

Mugwort where did the name come from?

As with many other common names there are several schools of thought as to where the name came from.  Here are two examples for the name mugwort. It was said to derive from the fact it was used to flavour drinks {drank from mugs}

Secondly  it may have derived not from mug but from maughte, meaning a moth or maggot, because in the days of Dioscorides the plant, along with the similar looking wormwood, were regarded as useful in keeping moths away from clothes and other fabrics.

The genus name of Artemisia is dedicated to the Greek goddess of chastity. the species name of vulgaris alludes to the plant being common.  

 

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