Is this mugwort? Or something else?



After I was introduced to mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), I went looking for more mugwort plants.  I found lots of them.  And then I became confused because I also saw this plant and was not so sure that it was also mugwort, despite its similar leaf . . .

Common ragweed

Common ragweed

As it turns out, I was able to identify it as common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia).  Just look at those two scientific names — Artemisia vulgaris and Ambrosia artemisiifolia.  That, in itself, tells me how similar the plants are for the average person — as well as for the botanist!

Now, how can I (or you) tell these two plants apart?  Let’s start with a close look at mugwort.  This photo shows mugwort when it is just beginning to come up in the spring:



And a bit later in the spring . . .



You can see the leaf shape and some of the stems are a bit purple in color.  Now, here is a lovely stand of mugwort during mid-spring:



Mugwort spreads easily and persists in colonies from year to year — just like common ragweed.  Let’s take a closer look at the mugwort leaf . . .



. . .  and the underside of the leaf:



We can see the leaf is deeply cut with what looks like tiny points or prickles at the end of each lobe.  The underside of the leaf is silvery.

As the growing season progresses, mugwort extends upward — with a more narrow overall look to the plant . . .



The growing tip begins developing the inflorescence . . .



The next series of photos shows how the inflorescence develops at the tip of the mugwort plant as well as from various leaf axils.







Here’s a closer view of mugwort’s flowering spike (complete with an ant for purposes of visualizing the scale). . .



. . . and an even closer view of the mugwort flowers . . .



Let’s switch our attention back to common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia).  Here it is as it begins its growth for the season . . .

Common ragweed

Common ragweed

Later in the early growing season . . .

Common ragweed

Common ragweed

In the above photo you can see some darker coloration along the top of each leaf’s petiole — similar to the more purple looking coloration of mugwort’s stems.  The common ragweed has hairy stems — as does mugwort!

Let’s look more closely at the common ragweed leaf . . .

Common ragweed

Common ragweed

Those leaves still look just like mugwort’s leaves.  Deeply cut or lobed.  Tiny points on the end of the lobes.  Same basic leaf shape.

As the growing season continues, common ragweed grows upward.  Here it is with its developing inflorescences . . .

Common ragweed

Common ragweed

A closer view of the developing inflorescences . . .

Common ragweed

Common ragweed

Well, those look a bit different from mugwort’s developing inflorescences.  Aahhh, now here is a distinguishing characteristic.  Common ragweed’s flower spike looks much different from mugwort’s . . .

Common ragweed

Common ragweed

This close-up view of common ragweed shows both its staminate (male) flowers — at the upper right — and its pistillate (female) flowers — at the lower center:

Common ragweed

Common ragweed

[For more images of common ragweed — as compared to greater ragweed — check out this previous post.]

After studying all these images, how do I tell the plants apart?  Especially early in the growing season before the flowers develop?  Well . . .  the key is to use my nose and not my eyes!  Mugwort has a distinctive, strong “herbal” odor when I crush and smell its leaves.  Common ragweed has very little odor to its bruised leaves.  I invite you to visit these two plants and use the smell test on them.

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63 Responses to Is this mugwort? Or something else?

  1. Bobby says:

    Excellent resource. Thank you for your hard work!

  2. Judy says:

    Beautiful pictures and a great resource! Can’t wait to go outside and look for these.

  3. Mary says:

    When I saw your beautiful pictures of mugwort I was thrilled to recognize a very familiar “weed” that I’ve been pulling out of my garden every year. Now that I know what it is I will leave a patch and try using it for tea. I’ve heard that it’s good for inducing vivid dreams. Does any one know more about that?

    Thank you so much!

    • Mugwort does indeed bring about lucid dreaming or dream recall, which can be a positive experience for one who wishes to remember his/her dreams. This can be accomplished with a very small amount of the herb (dried or fresh) in a dream pouch or satchel and tucked under the pillow or placed beside the place of sleeping on a table.
      HOWEVER, if one already possesses the ability to recall dreams or is a lucid dreamer, Mugwort may very well bring about very disturbing night terrors and nightmares (literally your worst dreams). I speak from experience. I am a wildcraft herbalist and believe that Mugwort has definite psychic properties and medicinal benefits as well. (Sweet Dreams).

    • steven Chen says:

      Hi Mary,
      Just saw your comments here,hope to provide more info. about mugwort to you for your good reference.if you have interests i can send you seeds or dried mugwort for daily use.
      Artemisia vulgaris
      Mugwort is used to flavour dishes of eel and carp and in stuffing for duck, geese, pork and mutton. In china and Japan Mugwort is used to colour and flavour rice cakes.
      Mugwort is also used for anorexia, depression with a lack of appetite, indigestion, round worms and threadworms, colic and nervous dyspepsia.
      It is useful to help bring on menstruation and to ease menstrual pain.
      Mugwort is externally used as a wash for fungal infections. In Chinese medicine, ‘moza’ the compressed dried leaf is burned over acupuncture points.
      Parts Used
      Aerial parts in flower
      Emmenagogue, appetite stimulant, bitter, choleretic, stomachic, anthelmintic
      Pregnancy and breastfeeding.
      All information provided is for informational purposes only. Please seek professional advice before commencing any treatment.

      Kind regards
      Steven Chen(

      • Trish says:

        Thanks for all that info Steven.
        I would just like to add that my dog is allergic to Mugwort so for all its medicinal qualities I still have to try and get rid, at least in the garden and believe me there is quite a bit of it.

        • John says:

          Is it true that this mugwort allergic to your dog? I thought it is a good one that can be used as medications?

          Please let me know what happened?


      • Sonia says:

        Hi Stephen I’ve seen your reply to Mary and I would like to know if you wouldn’t mind sending me some seeds as well and if you can throw in some dry leaves that would be swell if not I will be very be content with just only the seeds; if that is all you can spare. Thank you for your advice,instructions and your information on the Mugwort!

        God bless!


        • Freuda Black says:

          Please do not plant Mugwort. It is known to be an extremely problematic invasive which can spread beyond control and exclude all other vegetation!

      • Cindy says:

        Hello Steven; I am really interested in growing mugwort but am having trouble getting seeds. Would it be possible for you to send me a few to get me started. I would like to do some research on this plant and its properties. I appreciate your time with this and thank you.

      • John says:

        Hi Steven, I am living in Hickory, NC 28602 (USA).
        Do we have mugwort or its seeds here? I watched Korea Drama, Jewel in the Palace and the actress used dried mugwort to boil in a pot and washed the feet. It helps keeping the skin moisturing as medication.

        How I could find it here?


  4. vicki says:

    All I can say is that this was an explanation I have been searching for. Thank you so much.

  5. pattianne pascual says:

    your photos are excellent.the very first picture looks like wormwood to me instead of mugwort.notice the leaves are more “rounded” and scalloped,compared to the very pointy leaves of the rest of your mugwort photos.i too find myself confused with lookalikes.if anyone figures it out please let me know.i found pointy mugwort but no wormwood to put side by side to compare them.very important to know the difference as I will be using it as food and medicine.

    • Angelyn says:

      Pattianne, I congratulate you on your close study of the photos and plants which interest you. The first photo is actually Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). It’s at a stage of growth which can be confusing. And plants do not always, every time, fit exactly the mental image we construct of them. We have to allow for “plant variation.” Secondly, I wanted to let you know that another common name for Mugwort is “Common wormwood.” Therefore, it turns out you are correct, too, in your assessment of the plant in the first photo looking like Wormwood.

  6. Kitty says:

    Wonderful educational site! Thank you for this. I’m going to find some Mugwort now:-)

  7. Lynne says:

    I was introduced to Mugwort up in Northern Va – a Korean friend of mine found it growing wild and was very excited. She used for tea and when doing some search on the herb found it has many medicinal uses. I am now in coastal NC and had a small amount from Va, trying to grow here in the sandy soil. So far it is growing, but I may also have common weeds that look so similar, this article is very helpful. I am watching my plants carefully to be sure I have my special Mugwort.

  8. Wapaq says:

    I was trying to find out if a certain plant in my yard is ragweeed. It smells like a skunky pungent citrus like smell and it lingers in the air. I can smell it and it’s quite strong. Also, the stem is strong and looks like a hemp stem on the inside. The plant has a flowering top looks like buds with tiny yellow flowers. It’s definitely not cinquefoil or anything near that. Help me please??

  9. sally says:

    Interesting photos. My Mugwort looks like and smells like chrysanthemum… but my Mugwort has never flowered. I’ve been trying to eradicate it from my garden for the past 23 years! And this year I definitely have to try and get rid of it, as my puppy got a hold of some it (in her mouth) and has lost pigment on her muzzle where the Mugwort came in contact, i.e., contact dermatitis. I am hoping to the pigment comes back.

    Any suggestions on how to get rid of this pesty plant would be greatly appreciated…

    • Angelyn says:

      I’ve done my best to limit the areas in which I allow Mugwort to grow. As I’ve read and experienced — and it sounds like you’ve experienced, too — even the least bit of root matter remaining in the soil can sprout into a new plant. I suppose there are chemical methods which would work. I just choose to keep on pulling and digging it up.

  10. Thanks so much! I had tons of this growing out in my pasture and the goats love it…. but wasn’t sure if it was mugwort or something else. Now I know it’s ragweed. Thanks for clearing this up for me.

  11. James Welch says:

    Im trying to figure out if i stumbled upon some wild mugwort, i know the color is usually purple but i know there are strands that turn orange, I’ve also learned the purple leaf is better for spicing food, while the orange is what helps in vivid dreaming. Any comments?

    • Angelyn says:

      James, I have not heard of distinctions between “purple leaf” and “orange” for mugwort. Nor for how any color variations might be useful for food vs. dreaming. I’ve only used the dried leaves of Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) for tea.

  12. This is such an incredible documentation of the plant and its distinctive features…during its life cycle! Great job and I so appreciate the information. I am posting a link to this discussion on my FB page to amplify a conversation we are having there about Mugwort Essential Oil.

    Beautiful, illustrative pictures. Again…thank you so much. Audre

  13. joe says:

    yes it is mudwort it spread from over 4 yards away to my garden lawn and shrubs i took a sample to extension of pa.state university plant pathology it came from va. and nc. the best time to kill the weed is late summer and early fall using a sprayer with a material called stinger i have been trying to kill this weed for over 15 years and still shows up i even placed roots on blacktop driveway at 95 deg. temp and it still grew keeping the plants cut down will starve the roots hope this helps

  14. Madronna says:

    Sorry folks and for all your hard work in these photos, but what you started with here is NOT mugwort (at least not the California mugwort indigenous to the Pacific Northwest)– mugwort of all types has silver undersides on its leaves. Check out this page for the “real” mugwort:
    What you seem to have here instead is motherwort…as for the ragweed, you might be right, I have not seen or identified it around here (the Pacific Northwest).

    • Angelyn says:

      Madronna, this is Artemisia vulgaris — aka Mugwort. The underside of its leaves are silvery (as you commented). This can be seen in the seventh photo above. I agree this is not Artemisia douglasiana — a different species which has the same common name and is also known as California mugwort.

      Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) leaves are different from either plant featured in this post. Images and related links with more info about Motherwort can be found at the USDA Plants Database:

      • Pamela Spiro Wagner says:

        Also, as a member of the lamiaceae or mint family, I believe Motherwort should have square stems as well as the distinctive mint habitus when flowering.

  15. Allison says:

    Thank You, Thank you!!!! I have a lot of both and was growing very confused. You cleared it all up for me. Now the Wormwood and Common Wormwood? I am assuming are different because the Common Wormwood is another name for the Mugwort. More researching needed now…..

  16. That was an excellent comparison and belongs in a book! I like how your explained it, the photos, and more. You are the sort of person PlantForagers would welcome as another expert forager (amongst our authors & others). Please consider joining. I will meanwhile post a link to this website so others there may see this, too.

    Sam Schaperow, M.S.

  17. Gina says:

    I have some plants growing wild and can’t tell if it’d it’s ragweed or not. Anyway for me to send a photo in hopes of identification? Thank you.

    • Angelyn says:

      Gina, you may send a photo to me at the following address:
      angelyn AT identifythatplant DOT com
      I’ll look at the photo to see if I can help you identify your plant.

  18. Michael says:

    Great page, thanks. I found this lovely herb growing in the rocks alongside my fence and left it alone, as everything I planted there died 😉 Now that I know it’s ragweed I’m tempted to pull it- but the foliage is very pretty for now.

  19. ricky says:

    The common ragweed leave look more like a fern.

  20. Sadie says:

    Awesome!!! I am so excited to have found your website – this is one of my goals this year to increase my plant identification skills!! Thank you!

  21. Carolyn McInerney says:

    I have a plant that looks just like the pictures of artemisia vulgaris but it does not have a silvery underside. It does have a very pleasant herbal scent so I guess it is not ragweed. Without silver and without any purple stems = mugwort?

    • Angelyn says:

      Carolyn, you are welcome to email some photos of your plant to me ( angelyn AT identifythatplant DOT com ) and I’ll see if I recognize your plant. Also, tell me where your plant is growing.

  22. Tricia says:

    I think I have some mugwort in my yard. The stalk is fuzzy. I couldn’t see the stalk in the photos here, so could you tell me if that’s consistent with mugwort? Thanks.

    • Angelyn says:

      I just looked closely at a nearby patch of Mugwort. The stalks are not “fuzzy” although the lowest portion of the stalk has a tiny bit of “downy” look to it. When a new plant just begins to grow in the spring, it also looks a bit downy with tiny hairs on the newly emerging leaves. As the stalk ages, it turns dark green and sometimes even burgundy in color. Older stalks definitely look smooth.

      You are welcome to email me some photos of your plant (Angelyn AT identifythatplant DOT com) and I’ll see it I can confirm your id.

  23. C.F. Binan says:

    I have been searching for mugwort but could not trust myself. Now I can easily find it and I will start tomorrow itself as I have seen a lot of this plant with other varieties in Shillong.

    I will let you know, as I am very confident of finding it.

    Thanks for the information and the photos – its a blessing.

  24. Ima says:

    Very good description. Just what I was looking for

  25. Janine Valenti says:

    You guys are like a think-tank. Extremely helpful to me. I am so grateful when I find out that the bulk of field work and research is already done…you all are like a set of awesome encyclopedias. Many THANKS! MANY Thanks indeed.

  26. I’d like to see the differences between mugwort and feverfew.

  27. Jonathan says:

    I’ve used this article as a reference for:

    Also, looks like ragweed can have opposite leaves while mugwort is always alternate, right?

  28. Janet Murray says:

    Mugwort is on the invasive plant list in Connecticut and for a very good reason. It will quickly take over your flower beds and is very difficult to get rid of. I would not encourage anyone to plant it.

  29. Elizabeth Triano says:

    What a wonderful page! Thank you. I’m looking forward to exploring your site. Poison Ivy has a few different “looks,” and so does oriental bittersweet, just to name a few others. I wish more field guides were available, both for invasives and general use, that show more of these variability aspects.

  30. I used to love to carry a handful of California mugwort in my shirt pocket and you could smell me all the way across the room. I was surprised when I found mugwort in Asia that the smell is not nearly as loud, at least not where I live in the Philippines. I have to pinch the leaf to get the smell I’m used to, and otherwise it just has a nice sweet smell. Because of this page I learned the difference as I did not know before that Calif. mugwort is A. douglasiana whereas what we have here clearly matches the photos of A. vulgaris. The Calif. mugwort is a much darker green and has a heavier look to it, bigger leaf, deeper notches and less of them, while the vulgaris is more feathery looking, almost similar looking to parsley or cilantro in some ways. I have always loved mugwort and urge anyone who has not experienced California mugwort to go find some if you are on the west coast, it grows everywhere as a common weed and the smell is several times more intense than vulgaris.

    As a dream aide, it pumps your dreams up to the next level, beyond any shadow of a doubt, and you don’t have to smoke it, drink it, or even put it in your pillow. It is very powerful which we don’t expect since it does not make you stoned or drunk, but yes it is very powerful. I like to say it has a trigger effect, a little bit switches on the dreams and you don’t need to get greedy with it. Just put it in a sachet and take about ten good strong whiffs of it after your 3 a.m. meditation, go back to sleep, and get ready for a nice ride. Respect this herb and don’t use it more than twice a week or its potency will be lessened to that of a common depressant.

    Oddly enough, in spite of my infatuation with the herb, I never tried to use Calif mugwort to induce dreams because I didn’t believe the stories. My only experience in this way is just recently, with the vulgaris in Asia.

    Here’s some pictures of Calif. mugwort.

    I like the Scottish name, Muggons.

  31. little bird says:

    Thanks for the lovely comparison! People taking mugwort should be aware that high doses can cause liver damage.

  32. MaDonna Childs Martin says:

    Stephen, I am having a hard time finding mugwort seeds also. I feel awkward asking but do you have any extra seeds that you could spare so I could start a small patch this year? I would greatly appreciate the start. My husband and I have just been made aware of the native Indian uses of mugwort for healing and it has really worked wonders on us. The thought of having a small private patch of it is very wholesome. I never realized what it was or what it was used for until recently. thank you very much..

  33. Jeri says:

    Does mugwort have a shallow root system? And mine does not flower, but then again I start cutting it down at about 3 feet. How tall does it get? Thank you!!!

    • Angelyn says:

      Mugwort’s root system may be “shallow,” however it is persistent. When pulling it up, I’ve found that the least little piece of root which is left in the ground will later sprout into a full plant. Without cutting it back, I’d say it easily grows to a four foot height/length (it flops over).

  34. Jeri says:

    I wanted to add, what an excellent site you have. I have been trying to identify this mystery plant for years! Mine looks exactly like the very top picture.

  35. Jeri says:

    Thank you . Think I’ll let some if it grow this year and hopefully it will flower. I’ve always liked the scent of the leaves. Reminds me a little of lavender, but sweeter.

  36. Gerard Hoang Vu says:

    Thank you so much for your interesting article about Mugwort.
    May I have a question? I live in Vietnam and I have some mugwort plants in my garden, but I don’t know if it is the Artemisia Vulgaris or the Artemisia Argyi. And I would like to know if the A.Vulgaris has different magical properties with A.Argyi too, and what are those different magical properties? Thank you so much.

    • Angelyn says:

      I do not know anything about Artemisia argyi so I am unable to answer your question about its properties. I suggest (1) doing an internet search on “Artemisia argyi medicinal properties” and (2) finding a qualified, competent local herbalist who might be able to answer your questions.

  37. Mary says:

    Has anyone noticed that ladybugs love mugwort? Every year I notice ladybugs hanging out in the tall plants. Just wondering if it’s just my lady beetles or if anyone else has noticed it.

  38. Michelle says:

    I loved this article and am printing it out in color. The pics were so good that I can match it up perfectly with what I have. Thank you!

  39. NORA MCFALL says:


  40. Nava says:

    Extremely helpful ! Thank you because I have been dealing with this exact dilemma and it turns out I have been picking ragweed and not mugwort .

  41. Pingback: Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris - Mid Atlantic Gardening

  42. Pingback: Mugwort: Benefits, Side-Effects, Supplements, Uses, And Capsules - Premier Formulas

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