Invasive Species Spotlight – Mugwort

Name: Mugwort or Common Wormwood (Artemisia vulgaris)

Origin: Mugwort is native to Europe and Asia, where it was utilized as a medicinal and culinary herb. It was introduced to North America through ship ballast and continues to spread across the continent via nursery stock, turf grass and roadways.

NYS Presence: Widespread throughout the state and often found in ditches, roadsides, pastures and other disturbed areas.

Species Profile: Mugwort is a perennial that flowers in late summer to early fall. Its alternating dark green leaves are smooth on top and have silvery-white hairs underneath. When the foliage is crushed it is known to release a pungent odor. One plant can produce as much as 200,000 seeds which are roughly 1mm in diameter and are spread by the wind and easily moved around on tires, mowers and construction equipment. As a result, Mugwort can be found along miles of roadside.

Mugwort
Note the difference in color from the top (green) and the bottom (gray), image from https://extension.umass.edu/landscape/weeds/artemisia-vulgaris

Although seed dispersal plays a large role in the spread of this invasive weed, its root system is also a culprit in increase this weed’s introduction to new sites. Nursery stock including ornamental plants, turf grass, and orchard stock are easily contaminated by these root fragments and carried into new places. Mugwort’s rhizomatous roots – an extensive and dense underground network — and the abundance of seeds make this species very hard to control.

ArtemisiaVulgaris_Christian Fischer, accessed from Wikicommons
Mugwort in flower, photo by Christian Fischer, accessed from Wikicommons.org

Mugwort has displaced many native plants, especially those that thrive in sunny, open habitat. Cleaning equipment, using clean fill (e.g., at construction or landscaping sites), and removing and disposing of any new infestations of Mugwort are some of the ways to reduce the spread of this plant.

Resources:

Barney, J.N. and A. DiTommaso. 2003. The biology of Canadian weeds. 118. Artemisia vulgaris L. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 83:205-215.

https://www.forestandwatersolutions.com/uploads/3/6/3/1/3631108/japanese_knotweed_mugwort_pale_swallowort.pdf

http://www.nyis.info/index.php?action=invasive_detail&id=63

http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/pdf/10.4141/P01-098

Featured image, mugwort growing along a forest edge, photo by Ansel Oommen, Bugwood.org

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