Artemisia abrotanum

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Artemisia abrotanum
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Artemisia
A. abrotanum
Binomial name
Artemisia abrotanum
L. 1753 not Thunb. 1784
  • Artemisia altissima Ehrh. ex DC.
  • Artemisia anethifolia Fisch. ex DC.
  • Artemisia elatior Klokov
  • Artemisia elegans Fisch. ex Ledeb.
  • Artemisia foeniculacea Steven ex DC.
  • Artemisia herbacea Ehrh. ex Willd.
  • Artemisia paniculata Lam.
  • Artemisia procera Willd.
  • Artemisia proceriformis Krasch.
  • Artemisia tenuissima Spreng. ex Besser

Artemisia abrotanum, the southernwood, lad's love, or southern wormwood, is a species of flowering plant in the sunflower family. It is native to Eurasia[2] and Africa but naturalized in scattered locations in North America.[3][4] Other common names include: old man, boy's love, oldman wormwood, lover's plant, appleringie, garderobe, Our Lord's wood, maid's ruin, garden sagebrush, European sage, sitherwood and lemon plant.

Southernwood has a strong camphor-like odour and was historically used as an air freshener or strewing herb. It forms a small bushy shrub, which is widely cultivated by gardeners. The grey-green leaves are small, narrow and feathery. The small flowers are yellow. It can easily be propagated by cuttings, or by division of the roots.

This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[5]


A yellow dye can be extracted from the branches of the plant, for use with wool. Its dried leaves are used to keep moths away from wardrobes. The volatile oil in the leaves is responsible for the strong, sharp, scent which repels moths and other insects. It was customary to lay sprays of the herb amongst clothes, or hang them in closets, and this is the origin of one of the southernwood's French names, "garderobe" ("clothes-preserver"). Judges carried posies of southernwood and rue to protect themselves from prisoners' contagious diseases, and some church-goers relied on the herb's sharp scent to keep them awake during long sermons.[6]

The pungent, scented leaves and flowers are used in herbal teas. Young shoots were used to flavor pastries and puddings. In Italy, it is used as a culinary herb.

In the traditional medicine of East and North Bosnia and Herzegovina, aerial parts of Artemisia abrotanum are used in jaundice therapy.[7]

A poem by Edward Thomas (1878 – 1917) concerns the herb: "Old Man or Lad's Love".[8]

In the Chinese book of rites they mentioned it in sacrifices.[9]


Currently, it has been documented that all the aerial parts of Artemisia abrotanum contain substances that can be toxic to humans, due to the presence in the essential oil of bicyclic monoterpenes and phenylpropanoids.[10]


  1. ^ "Artemisia abrotanum". The Global Compositae Checklist (GCC) – via The Plant List. Note that this website has been superseded by World Flora Online
  2. ^ Altervista Flora Italiana, Abrotano, Artemisia abrotanum L. includes photos + European distribution map
  3. ^ "Artemisia abrotanum in Flora of North America". Retrieved 2022-03-30.
  4. ^ "Distribution map" (PNG). Retrieved 2022-03-30.
  5. ^ "RHS Plant Selector Artemisia abrotanum AGM / RHS Gardening". Retrieved 2012-11-07.
  6. ^ Alice Morse Earle (1851-1911), The Sabbath in Puritan New England, chapter 4.
  7. ^ Tewari D, Mocan A, Parvanov ED, Sah AN, Nabavi SM, Huminiecki L, Ma ZF, Lee YY, Horbańczuk JO, Atanasov AG. Ethnopharmacological Approaches for Therapy of Jaundice: Part I. Front Pharmacol. 2017, August 15; doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00518.
  8. ^ "Old Man Poem by Edward Thomas". Retrieved 2022-03-30.
  9. ^ Confucius (2016-08-29). Delphi Collected Works of Confucius - Four Books and Five Classics of Confucianism (Illustrated). Delphi Classics. ISBN 978-1-78656-052-0.
  10. ^ European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (2012). "Compendium of botanicals reported to contain naturally occuring [sic] substances of possible concern for human health when used in food and food supplements" (PDF). EFSA Journal. 10 (5): 2663. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2663.

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