Nature Wisdom

With Pat Tuholske,

The Silver Leafed Artemisia

As an early morning thunder storm rages on, I pause in my gardening work to share with you some of my favorite plants and their namesake. With foliage the color of the moon, the silver leafed Artemisia genus has a long history as an aromatic, medicinal, ornamental, edible and ceremonial plant.

Wandering through my large garden of Mugwort and Sweet Annie, my touch releases fragrance and memories flood of my first encounter with these beauties deep in the Ozarks when I was learning about wreath and remedy making in the mid 70s. One of my first tinctures was Wormwood I used as a repellent for bothersome insects.

When I encounter Sagebrush or burning sage, I instantly recall my days as a Bear Tribe apprentice learning the sacred ways of the earth and all her creatures in the early 80s.

Last winter I created a wreath base of Dusty Miller for a client. My hands, face and hair were full of the scent. As I worked weaving the client’s intentions into the wreath, I felt a strong wild woman presence. I perceived the power of the namesake of this genus, Artemis, inspiring me with her wisdom and healing. Artemis’ gift is to divine, dream and return to wholeness.

Artemis is Apollo’s sister and daughter of Zeus. This Spirit of the Forest is one of the most widely venerated ancient deities. She was worshipped throughout ancient Greece as Artemis, across the Roman empire as Diana, and in Celtic tribes as Arduinna.

Considered a protector of the herbalist, the midwife, young children, and the hunter, Artemis is the untamed Wild Woman who runs free with the deer and the hounds.

As Goddess of the Hunt she is depicted carrying bow and arrows and accompanied by a dog. This Mistress of Animals watches over the boar, deer, bear, and hunting dogs. Her role in sacred rites connected with the moon, with dreaming, divination and psychic visioning stretches back to the mists of prehistory.

This woodland deity is the untamed spirit in us all. The natural world is Artemis’ domain which she fiercely protects. She helps us access our own strength and courage. Her nature also manifests in gentle ways. Artemis served as a healing goddess, protecting and healing all fauna and flora.

And the plants named after her share her qualities. Artemisia is a large, diverse genus of plants with over 200 species belonging to the daisy family Asteraceae. Common names for various species in the genus include Mugwort, Wormwood, and Sagebrush.

Encompassing aromatic, medicinal, decorative, and edible plants, Artemisia is found in gardens, waysides, and waste lots throughout the world. Paleobotanists propose Artemisia is so widespread because women scattered the seeds wherever they settled.

Most Artemisias are perennials that tolerate drought, poor soil, and extremes of heat and cold, making them ideal allies for the novice gardener. Their silver foliage provides graceful contrast to flowering plants and green foliage in beds, borders, and herb gardens.

Artemisias produce hundreds of aromatic oils, including camphor and thujone. This keeps them bug-free and provides us with medicines. Artemisias can be extracted into vinegar, vodka, or olive oil and used externally to counter infections and bothersome insects.

Dried Artemisias are used to make aromatic bouquets, wreaths, and swags, as well as dream pillows, sachets, and magical charms. When dirt floors were common, Artemisias were popular as strewing herbs.

Artemisia species that can be grown in our Missouri Ozark gardens: A. abrotanum (Southernwood) — insect repellent, dye plant, air freshener; A. absinthium (Wormwood) — medicinal, absinthe liqueur, insect repellent ; A. annua (Sweet Annie) — medicinal, researched as malaria treatment; A. drancuncula (Tarragon) — culinary, medicinal ; A. frigida (Sagebrush) — ceremonial smudge, medicinal, ornamental; A. ludoviciana (Silver King) — ornamental, dried arrangements, wreaths, fiber plant, ceremonial smudge, medicinal; A. pontica (Roman Wormwood) — garden beauty, absinthe liqueur; A. schmidtiana (Silvermound) — butterfly garden, ornamental; A. stellerana (Dusty Miller) — ornamental, wreaths, dried arrangements,; A. vulgaris (Mugwort) — medicinal, dream work, ceremonial.

May power of Artemis to protect, heal and run wild be with you. May the qualities of the Artemisias restore vitality and wellness and bring beauty to your life.

Check out Pat Tuholske’s “Nature Chronicles” for musings on the Human-Nature relationship and the 2018 Earthcamp schedule at pattuholske.com. See her Wild Wreaths, Wheels and Twig Art woven from Ozark native plants at willowrainherbalgoods.com.