Asteraceae: Sunflower Family – Anthemideae (Mayweed) Tribe: Artemisia

The Sunflower family is a very large family with over 25,000 members.  Botanists subdivide the family into a number of tribes, of which 14 are represented in Monterey County.  The Mayweed tribe includes some obviously daisy-like flowers, and others which have rather undistinguished flowers, like the Artemisia shown on this page.  All Artemisia have foliage with a distinctly sage-like aroma, though they are unrelated to true sages, which belong to the Mint family (Lamiaceae).

Coast / California Sagebrush – Artemisia californica

Blooms:

Aug–Nov

Plant Height:

0.6–2.5 m

Flower Size:

Medium cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Coastal scrub, chaparral, open woodland

Notes:

Very common aromatic shrub with dense, feathery leaves.  The leaves are bluish-green early in the year, becoming grayish later as it dries out.  Flowers are small, reddish and pendulous.

Mugwort – Artemisia douglasiana

Blooms:

May–Nov

Plant Height:

0.5–1.5 m

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Many communities

Notes:

More easily recognized by its sharply lobed leaves (with their almost white tomentose undersides) than by its small creamy white flowers. Like the Coast Sagebrush (Artemisia californica, see above), the leaves have a distinct sage-like aroma. Mugwort is best known as an antidote to Poison Oak, though opinions differ as to its effectiveness, so avoidance is undoubtedly the better option.

Tarragon – Artemisia dracunculus

Blooms:

Aug–Oct

Plant Height:

0.5–1.5 m

Flower Size:

Small clusters

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dry, disturbed places

Notes:

Somewhat similar to Mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana, see above) in its general appearance and flowers, but the smaller and narrower leaves are green on both sides and the lobes are much narrower.  Although related to the culinary Tarragon, this tends to have little aroma, and what there is is often bitter and unpleasant.

Coastal / Beach Sagewort – Artemisia pycnocephala

Blooms:

June–Sept

Plant Height:

30–70 cm

Flower Size:

Large cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Rocky or sandy soils, coastal strand

Notes:

Commonly found near Coast Sagebrush (Artemisia californica, see above), it is immediately distinguishable by its soft, pale gray foliage.  Often grows in mounds, with its leafy stems curved near the tip. The flower spike is more congested than that of Coast Sagebrush, and the flowers are more yellowish.