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Mugwort: the weed that looks like chrysanthemum

Mugwort: the weed that looks like chrysanthemum

“It this a perennial or is it a weed?”

Customers frequently come into our store in Hyannis with bunches of foliage and ask that question. Early in the season it’s sometimes hard to tell which plants are desirable perennials and which ones are unwanted weeds. One of the plants that frequently fools gardeners is mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), a persistent and invasive weed with foliage that looks like mums. If you have mugwort, you’ll want to dig it out as quickly as possible and continue the prompt removal of returning shoots. Here is a pictorial to help you know if mugwort has invaded your garden.

There are three different species of plants in this small group and they are very similar. It's no wonder that gardeners get confused!

This is a leaf from a perennial chrysanthemum (aka Dendranthema) The image on the left shows the underside of the leaves, and the image on the right is right-side-up.

This is mugwort foliage. Notice how the leaves are more pointed. One easy way to tell mugwort from other perennials and weeds is by looking at the underside of the leaf: the images on the left and the bottom right corner are of the underside, which is more silver or gray in color. The greener leaves are the top side of the foliage.

Here is a plant that's similar to mugwort that's often found in perennial gardens. This is feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), a self-seeding biennial that has little white daisy flowers in June and early July. Many gardeners leave some young plants where they want them but pull the unwanted and excess seedlings out. This is a plant that requires a gardener's controlling hand!

11 Comments

  1. Irene Aylmer on May 30, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Thanks for all your helpful suggestions. I have been gardening for years and never heard about Green Cure or the other product that helps stop the mildew that attacks my squash and cucumber plants each year in August. I love reading your many ideas/suggestions. I feel like Peggy Eastman is back in town.

    • CLFornari on May 30, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      Thanks, Irene! The key with Green Cure (or any fungicide for that matter) is that it works best if you start applying it BEFORE the plant has a problem. So start using it early and spray every week to every other week depending on the weather. BTW: mildew is always worse in dry weather because a good hard rain washes the spores off of plants. So pay particular attention if the weather is humid but we haven’t had any rain. Happy Gardening!

  2. susan kyriakoutsakos on April 3, 2015 at 11:24 am

    How neat to come across your website. I grew up on the Cape, Bass River. I just started a small weeding business (“I Love to Weed”). Trying to learn weeds from plants by leaves, before blossoming. Some of my clients, however, call weeds ‘wild flowers’. So your pictures with detail is very helpful to me.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • CLFornari on April 3, 2015 at 11:28 am

      Susan,
      I LOVE that you’re starting a weeding business! I love to weed too…very meditative. We’re pleased that you found this helpful, and hope that if you’re back on the Cape at any point you’ll stop into the store and say hello!

  3. dan on June 11, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    does mugwort flower? when ?

    • CLFornari on June 11, 2015 at 4:04 pm

      Mugwort does flower but it’s not a showy flower – it’s pale green and tiny, so many people dont’ even know the plant is blooming. They grow 2-4 feet tall, and kind of ragged looking, when flowering.

  4. Jacqueline Daniel on January 1, 2016 at 11:57 am

    I was diagnosed with being highly allergic to mug wort weed, but have no idea where I would have come in contact with it as we to our knowledge do not grow it? Any information on your end would be appreciated

    • CLFornari on January 1, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      Jacqueline,
      You don’t mention where you live, but in many parts of the US and Canada mugwort flourishes. It’s not always noticeable on the side of the road, at the back of the garage, or along property lines. When it’s in bloom the plant is quite tall and skinny. The flowers aren’t very noticeable. If you’re very allergic you’ll want to learn how this plant looks in all stages of growth, and always be sure to wear gloves when working in the garden or yard in case you don’t notice it at first. I’d suggest that you enter the name into “Google Image” so that you will see photos of various growth habits.

  5. Brenda Munro on February 6, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    I live in northern Ontario Canada is it possible that I would have this weed mug work growing in my yard I recently had allergy testing and discovered that I have a an allergy to this . Does any body know?

    • CLFornari on February 10, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      Brenda,
      Yes, it’s possible that mugwort is growing in Northern Ontario. You could contact your local garden center about it.

  6. Joelle on June 25, 2017 at 8:51 am

    This was very helpful. I had googled mugwort images and was getting very confused. There are so many other plants mixed in with the images. This is so far the best explanation of how to identify the plant that I’ve come across.

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