OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312



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Botanical drawing of Artemisia absinthium



Wormwood in early sources

Description      Propagation      Cultivation       Harvest

Artemisia absinthium

Artemis, goddess of the hunt, the forest, and children, gave her name to this plant. Absinthium, Greek for "not sweet," refers to its bitter taste.

Common names, modern

Wormwood, Common wormwood


All parts of this plant are toxic due to the presence of thujone, which can cause brain and liver damage. Expert distillers make absinthe, an anise-flavored liquor which was once believed to cause permanent mental illness. Later it was found that contaminants like copper sulfate and other heavy metals in absinthe were the real culprits. Today, absinthe is again legal in the U.S. In addition to its use in absinthe, Artemisia absinthium is also a flavoring agent in vermouth (whose name is a variant of wormwood) and some beers.



Perennial, semi-woody

Cold hardiness

Zones 4-9


24" to 36" tall by 20" to 24" wide


Shrubby plant


Small, round, dull yellow flowers in plumed panicles

Wormwood leafFoliage

Deeply cut, downy, silvery green leaves, white on the underside; strongly scented


Prune in spring to encourage bushiness; in fall, cut back to 1"

By seed

Gather seed in late autumn

Germination temperature

60-65 degrees F

Germination time

30-60 days


Keep soil slightly moist until seeds germinate; avoid excessive wetness


Requires light to germinate

From cuttings Propagate from semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer or early autumn
From root divisions Divide roots in autumn



Light, well-drained soil


Tolerates drought; in rainy, humid climates may rot in the center


Full sun is best, but will tolerate light shade

Natural habitat

Then as now, wormwood thrives "...in cultivated places, on downs, and in stony places..."

Anglo-Saxon Herbal (CII)


Can be invasive; is a noxious weed in Colorado, North Dakota, and Washington state.mWormwood can inhibit the growth of some neighboring plants, so site it carefully, or grow it in a pot.


Suffers from some rust and other fungal diseases, and also from mildew, especially in humid climates.


Has few insect pests; repels fleas, flies, mosquitoes, flea beetles

Season to bloom/bear

Flowers from July to October

Seed collection

Collect seed in late fall, or watch for volunteer seedlings in the spring, and transplant these

Wormwood in early sources


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F.D. Drewitt


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