Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Artemisia absinthium
Photo by Chris Evans, University of Illinois,


SPECIES: Artemisia absinthium
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Carey, Jennifer H. 1994. Artemisia absinthium. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : ARTABS SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : ARAB3 ARABA ARABI3 COMMON NAMES : absinthium absinth wormwood common wormwood wormwood sage TAXONOMY : The scientific name of absinthium is Artemisia absinthium L. (Asteraceae) [2,6,7,27]. Most North American authors do not recognize varieties of absinthium. However, Boivin [2] has classified plants in Canada as insipid wormwood (A. a. var. insipida Stechmann). LIFE FORM : Forb FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Artemisia absinthium
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Absinthium, native to Europe, was introduced to North America in 1841 [15].  It is now naturalized across the northern United States and in Canada.  It occurs from Nova Scotia west to British Columbia; south to Oregon and Utah; and east through Colorado and Nebraska to Virginia [3,6,7,17,27]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES10  White - red - jack pine    FRES11  Spruce - fir    FRES15  Oak - hickory    FRES17  Elm - ash - cottonwood    FRES18  Maple - beech - birch    FRES19  Aspen - birch    FRES20  Douglas-fir    FRES21  Ponderosa pine    FRES22  Western white pine    FRES23  Fir - spruce    FRES25  Larch    FRES26  Lodgepole pine    FRES29  Sagebrush    FRES35  Pinyon - juniper    FRES36  Mountain grasslands    FRES37  Mountain meadows    FRES38  Plains grasslands    FRES39  Prairie STATES :      CO  CT  DE  ID  IL  IN  IA  ME  MD  MA      MI  MN  MT  NE  NH  NJ  NY  ND  OH  OR      PA  RI  SD  UT  VT  VA  WA  WI  WY  AB      BC  MB  NB  NS  ON  PE  PQ  SK BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :     1  Northern Pacific Border     2  Cascade Mountains     5  Columbia Plateau     8  Northern Rocky Mountains     9  Middle Rocky Mountains    10  Wyoming Basin    11  Southern Rocky Mountains    12  Colorado Plateau    13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont    14  Great Plains    15  Black Hills Uplift    16  Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : NO-ENTRY SAF COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Absinthium primarily grows on disturbed sites within grasslands, pastures, perennial crops, and on land abandoned from cultivation [18]. In Glacier National Park, absinthium was found growing with orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) and mountain hollyhock (Iliamna rivularis).  On a disturbed site in West Glacier, Montana, absinth wormwood occurs with creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) and yellow sweetclover (Melilotus officinalis) [13]. The upstream portion of islands in the Columbia River is dominated by lupine (Lupinus spp.), arrowleaf buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum), and absinthium [9]. Absinthium occurs with western snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis) in moist ravines in Saskatchewan [18].


SPECIES: Artemisia absinthium
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Canada geese use absinthium for nesting cover on Columbia River islands but prefer lupine and willow (Salix spp.) [9]. PALATABILITY : Absinthium is unpalatable to fairly palatable to cattle [15,28]. Palatability is listed as poor for horses and good for sheep [28]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Absinthium energy and protein values are listed as fair [28]. COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : Absinthium is a medicinal herb often planted in gardens. Absinthal, a volatile oil produced from absinthium flowerheads, was used in French liquors until prohibited in 1915 because of its toxic and addictive effects [8]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Absinthium is considered a weed in pastureland, cropland, and rangeland in the northern Great Plains [14,15].  Although it spreads rapidly on disturbed sites, it is easily controlled by herbicides and/or vigorous competition from grasses [14].  Picloram provides the most rapid and complete control of absinthium, but dicamba, 2,4-D, and glyphosate are also effective.  Application techniques are described [14,15]. Absinthium, which contains the sesquiterpene lactone absinthin, can be toxic to other plants in its vicinity.  Studies of its effect on the germination of other plants are inconclusive [15].  Although absinth wormwood leaf extracts inhibited the germination of needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata), they stimulated the germination of green needlegrass (S. viridula) [10]. Absinthium taints milk when eaten by cows [14].


SPECIES: Artemisia absinthium
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Absinthium is a nonnative, long-lived, fragrant, perennial herb that grows each year from a woody base.  An individual plant has 20 or more stems each growing 1.3 to 4.9 feet (0.4-1.5 m) tall.  The fruit is a cypsela without a pappus.  The well-developed root system consists of a taproot occasionally reaching 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter with shallow lateral branches extending 6 feet in all directions [18].  Absinth wormwood may be weakly rhizomatous [14,27].  The roots lack the interxylary bark of some Artemisia spp. which protects the roots from desiccation [15]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :    Hemicryptophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Absinthium reproduces primarily by seed and is a prolific seed producer [15,18,24].  Although the small seeds do not have any specific morphological provision for dispersal, they are easily scattered in hay and by wind, water, and animals.  The seeds retain their viability for 3 to 4 years [15].  Viable absinthium seeds have been found in the soil of undisturbed prairie grasslands in North Dakota [11]. Germination rates were measured under various pretreatment and photoperiod conditions.  Germination was best on moist soils.  It occurred over a wide range of temperatures between 41 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit (5-40 deg C) [15]. Absinthium invades extreme northern environments during warm periods but may not reproduce successfully.  Absinthium was present in northeastern Manitoba in 1989 but had not produced seeds when observed in late summer [20]. Maw and others [15] and Staniforth and Scott [20] did not find any evidence of vegetative reproduction by absinthium.  However, Selleck and Coupland [18] suggested that absinthium may regenerate from shallow lateral root branches when plowed.  Welsh and others [27] reported that absinthium has a rhizomatous caudex, and Lym and others [14] stated that absinthium may spread by rootstock. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Absinthium grows on disturbed sites such as along fencelines and roadsides, on borrow pits and gravel piles, and on overgrazed pastures and fields recently abandoned from cultivation [15]. Absinthium grows on a variety of soils from gravels to clay loams [15].  It grows on gravelly soils in Glacier National Park [13], and on a cobble-gravel substratum on the upstream portion of Columbia River islands where sand is washed away each spring during high water [8]. Absinthium grows best in moist habitats.  During drought it dies out on coarse, gravelly soils but survives in ravines and on north-facing slopes [15,18].  Absinthium occurs from 5,000 to 7,000 feet (1,500-2,100 m) elevation in Colorado [28]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Absinthium colonizes open, disturbed sites.  Establishment is minimal where there is a closed grass stand [15].  Absinthium seedlings which germinated in an ungrazed stand of needle-and-thread grass did not survive [18]. Absinthe wormwood tolerates some shade [15].  It was found growing vigorously within a tree plantation with approximately 60 percent crown cover [18]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Absinthium growth begins in early spring and flowerstalks are produced by mid-July [15].  Absinthium flowers July through September [3,15,28].  In North Dakota, absinthium began flowering the second week of August [22].  Seeds mature in early fall.  Seedlings emerge from early spring to August whenever moisture and warmth are available.  Rosettes form by the end of the first growing season [15].


SPECIES: Artemisia absinthium
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Although top-killed by fire, absinthium probably reestablishes after fire by sprouting from undamaged perennating buds [21] or regenerating from buried seed. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    Caudex, growing points in soil    Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)


SPECIES: Artemisia absinthium
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Low-severity fire readily top-kills absinthium and may completely kill some plants.  Because absinthium perennating buds are at or near the soil surface, they are susceptible to fire [21]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Absinthium perennating buds will sprout if they survive fire. Annual early spring prescribed fires were conducted in a South Dakota prairie infested with absinthium.  Dormant fine fuels ranged from 2,000 to 2,400 kilograms per hectare.  Nearly two-thirds of the absinth wormwood survived the first fire and regrew, but four consecutive annual spring fires reduced absinthium by 96 percent [21]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Spring fire can reduce absinthium on northern mixed prairie sites during years with adequate fuel.  However, abundant green herbaceous material can reduce fire severity during the spring and thus reduce fire damage to absinthium [21].


SPECIES: Artemisia absinthium
REFERENCES :  1.  Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals,        reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's        associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO:        U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p.        [434]  2.  Boivin, Bernard. 1972. The flora of the Prairie Provinces: Part III        (continued). Phytologia. 23(1): 1-140.  [23836]  3.  Cronquist, Arthur. 1955. Vascular plants of the Pacific Northwest: Part        5: Compositae. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 343 p.  [716]  4.  Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and        Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p.  [905]  5.  Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others].        1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range        ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p.  [998]  6.  Gleason, Henry A.; Cronquist, Arthur. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of        northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York: New        York Botanical Garden. 910 p.  [20329]  7.  Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains.        Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 1392 p.  [1603]  8.  Hammond, Catherine R. 1976. A gallery of herbs: A botanical guide to        some common and uncommon herbs. Horticulture. 54(3): 52-63.  [3025]  9.  Hanson, W. C.; Eberhardt, L. L. 1971. A Columbia River Canada goose        population, 1950-1970. Wildlife Monographs No. 28. Washington, DC: The        Wildlife Society. 61 p.  [18164] 10.  Hoffman, G. R.; Hazlett, D. L. 1977. Effects of aqueous Artemisia        extracts and volatile substances on germination of selected species.        Journal of Range Management. 30(2): 134-137.  [23850] 11.  Iverson, Louis R.; Wali, Mohan K. 1982. Buried, viable seeds and their        relation to revegetation after surface mining. Journal of Range        Management. 35(5): 648-652.  [23855] 12.  Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation        of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York:        American Geographical Society. 77 p.  [1384] 13.  Lesica, Peter; Ahlenslager, Kathleen; Desanto, Jerry. 1993. New vascular        plant record and the increase of exotic plants in Glacier National Park,        Montana. Madrono. 40(2): 126-131.  [21049] 14.  Lym, Rodney G.; Messersmith, Calvin G.; Dexter, Alan G. 1984. Absinth        wormwood control. W-838. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University,        Cooperative Expernsion Service. 2 p. In cooperation with: U.S.        Department of Agriculture.  [23854] 15.  Maw, M. G.; Thomas, A. G.; Stahevitch, A. 1985. The biology of Canadian        weeds. 66. Artemisia absinthium L. Canadian Journal of Plant Science.        65(2): 389-400.  [23853] 16.  Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant        geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p.  [2843] 17.  Roland, A. E.; Smith, E. C. 1969. The flora of Nova Scotia. Halifax, NS:        Nova Scotia Museum. 746 p.  [13158] 18.  Selleck, G. W.; Coupland, R. T. 1961. Studies in the life history of        Artemisia absinthium. Weeds. 9: 485-490.  [23852] 19.  Shaw, N. 1984. Producing bareroot seedlings of native shrubs. In:        Murphy, P. M., compiler. The challenge of producing native plants for        the Intermountain area: Proceedings, Intermountain Nurseryman's        Association conference; 1983 August 8-11; Las Vegas, NV. Gen. Tech. Rep.        INT-168. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,        Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 6-15.  [6850] 20.  Staniforth, Richard J.; Scott, Peter A. 1991. Dynamics of weed        populations in a northern subarctic community. Canadian Journal of        Botany. 69: 814-821.  [14944] 21.  Steuter, Allen A; Plumb, Glenn. 1988. Wormwood sage controlled by spring        fires (South Dakota). Restoration & Management Notes. 6(1): 35.  [69] 22.  Stevens, O. A. 1956. Flowering dates of weeds in North Dakota. North        Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station Bimonthly Bulletin. 18(6):        209-213.  [5168] 23.  Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern        Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire        Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p.  [20090] 24.  Thomas, A. G. 1991. Floristic composition and relative abundance of        weeds in annual crops of Manitoba. Canadian Journal of Plant Science.        71(3): 831-839.  [21786] 25.  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1994. Plants        of the U.S.--alphabetical listing. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 954 p.  [23104] 26.  U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biological Survey. [n.d.]. NP        Flora [Data base]. Davis, CA: U.S. Department of the Interior, National        Biological Survey.  [23119] 27.  Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry        C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo,        UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p.  [2944] 28.  Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information        network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and        Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior,        Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p.  [806]