Plant of the day: mugwort

Spires of grayish-green leaves grow on the roadside, each topped with a spike of unassuming pale flowers. This is California mugwort, or Artemisia douglasiana. It’s flowers are rayless aster-type flowers, diminutive tassles of pale beige or yellowish threads. The leaves are velvety with white hairs that are especially dense on the underside. When you rip one in half it clings together with fibrous shreds.

Mugwort can grow to be 8 feet tall according to the Marin Flora, but I’ve usually seen it growing to about knee high. The plant has a pleasant sage-like smell when you crush it—not surprising since it’s a close cousin of California sagebrush. It’s also known as Douglas’ sagewort, or dream plant.

You’ll find mugwort growing in a wide range of habitats—from moist seep springs to toasty hillsides.

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