Thursday, August 5, 2010

Artemisia, is that you?

A wave of work and schlepping back from New York to San Francisco has knocked me off my once-a-week WV rhythm. I've got some wonderful things to tell about the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, probably the highlight of my trip, but while I catch my breath and pull it all together, I cast to you this scrap of mystery. You all were so spunky when chiming in to identify that cat mint that I thought I would ask about this specimen as well.

Erin and I encountered it while at a friend's hillside hideout in Santa Barbara. Its spiny leaves look similar to rosemary but they have a lighter, chalkier texture and taste almost sage-y. Our friend said, "Rue?" But I thought I recognized its bristling twin at the Cloisters garden in New York:

The sign identified this medieval herb as Southernwood or Artemisia abrotanum, named after the goddess of hunting, Artemis. Apparently they still use it as a poultice in Germany, but most people nowadays seem to use it for filling sachets with a lemony scent. Entertaining aliases include: Lad’s Love, Maiden’s Ruin, and Old Man. Another site cites its use in ye olde ladies' bouquets and "tussie mussies." Bonus points for whoever is industrious enough to Google "tussie mussies" first and report back.

So perhaps the Santa Barbara plant is also some kind of Artemisia? If not southernwood, then maybe sagebrush? Help from the vegetable geniuses out there is much appreciated. Here are more photos to work from:


Marc said...

It looks to me like the classic Southern California sagebrush, the plant that I most associate with the hiking trails of the Santa Monica Mountains (I lived in Ventura for a year). Without smelling it, though, I can't say for sure. There is an Artemisia californica that grows in Santa Barbara County.

Anonymous said...

tussie mussies were bouquets, often in the language of flowers.

kale daikon said...

Oh how I wish someone would give me a tussie mussie!