Pineapple Weed Wild Camomile

Matricaria matricarioides (Less.) Porter (= M. suaveolens (Pursh) Buch.)

ramaaskax, from the Russian romashka

Arising from fibrous taproots, the stems are glabrous, branching and often curving from the base, and are seldom more than 8" high. The leaves are bright green and finely divided into very narrow segments. The plants bear numerous, yellow, conical, heads.

Wild camomile is a hardy little aromatic plant that grows in small clumps in poor or rocky soil. I only half-jokingly call it a parking lot plant, because it thrives in dry disturbed gravel where most other plants do not grow, and people really are apt to find it growing under their trucks. Wild camomile, like the cultivated species, can be brewed to make a soothing tea. The Unangan, and Russians as well, used it medicinally, and the tea was said to be a good tonic and a laxative (Bank 1962).

Range:

Northern circumpolar and widespread across Alaska; scattered populations in the Aleutians.

Artemisia, Wormwood

Artemisia unalaskensis Rybd.

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Artemisia, Wormwood

Artemisia unalaskensis Rybd.

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Arising from a stout rootstock, the stems are fibrous and very leafy, to 40" tall. The leaves are aromatic, deeply cleft into long lobes, silvery green, and tomen tose underneath. The top of the plant narrows into a tassel of small, inconspicuous greenish purple flowers, which are bunched among the leaves.

A hardy plant, often shoulder high, this artemisia grows in stands from sea level upwards. The leaves have a wonderful, strong scent, and were widely used medicinally by Alaska Native peoples. In traditional Unangan steam-baths, the leafy stems are gently slapped against the skin. The steamed leaves can be used as a hot pack to relieve aches and pains. A tea steeped from the leaves can ease colds, sore throats, and stomachaches (Schofield 1989).

Range:

Japan, Kamchatka, and the Aleutians.

A. unalaskensis is closely related to A. tilesii, a similar wormwood that is highly variable in its morphology. Hultén (1968) describes four subspecies for this circumpolar group, and it is often difficult to distinguish among these subspecies, all of which could also be found in the Aleutians.

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Arctic Wormwood

Artemisia arctica Less.

Arctic Wormwood

Artemisia arctica Less.

Emerging from a stout, woody taproot, the stems are glabrous and reddish, 8" to 24" tall. The bright green leaves are finely divided and clustered near the base of the plant, thinning to almost lacking on the upper stems. The numerous small, flowering heads are nodding and loosely clustered along the upper stem. The tiny rays are yellowish.

Usually found at upper elevations, arctic wormwood grows in scattered areas of dry tundra among the erica-cious plants. Unlike A. unalaskensis, the finely cut leaves are not fragrant.

Range:

Widespread across eastern Asia and Alaska, lacking in the central Aleutians.

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