Botanical Survey of India | Flora of India

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Artemisia absinthium L., Sp. Pl. 848. 1753; Hook.f., Fl. Brit. India 3: 328. 1881.

Eng.: Absinth, Madderwort; Hindi: Vilayati afsanth; Mal.: Shula bandha.

Herbs, perennial, erect, hoary pubescent, 30 - 90 cm high; stems few or many from the rootstock, angled, densely hoary pubescent, roughly sulcate, slender, terminating in inflorescences. Radical leaves ca 10 cm long, 2 - 3-pinnatisect, hoary pubescent to dull ferruginous petioled; petioles narrowly winged; segments linear or oblong-linear, obtuse. Heads yellow, compact, arising from the axils of the leaf-like bracts, shortly pedicelled in dense secund racemes, terminating the branches hemispheric, 3 cm in diam. Outer involucral bracts herbaceous, oblong with narrowly scarious margins; 2 x 0.5 mm; inner involucral bracts obovate-orbicular, with scarious margins 3 x 1 mm. Receptacle slightly convex, dull brown hairy. Outer florets 1 x 0.3 mm, female, fertile; corolla red, glandular, slightly obliquely dilated below. Disc florets hermaphrodite fertile, 2 x 0.5 mm, tube widened at the top; limbs 5-fid. Anthers acuminate. Achenes dull-brown, elliptic-oblong to obovoid, 1 x 0.5 mm, slightly concave in the centre rough.

Fl. & Fr. July - Sept.

Distrib. India: W. Himalayas, common on slopes, between 1500-2500 m. Jammu & Kashmir (Srinagar, Banihal, Tangmarg).

Afghanistan, N. Asia and Westwards to Atlantic.

Notes. Critical study of the specimens revealed that Artemisia absinthium L. is a very distinct species but sometimes confused with Artemisia sieversiana in general habit. However, the characteristic perennial habit, hoary pubescence of the stem and the leaves, small, short peduncled heads in small dense secund racemes, and acuminate anthers of the former are sufficient to distinguish it from the latter. Native of Europe, perhaps introduced for medicinal purposes. The whole herb is an aromatic tonic formerly used in debility of the digestive organs. It exercises a powerful influence over the nervous system and causes headache. This phenomenon was knwon to the travellers from the early times when marching through the extensive tracts of Kashmir and Ladakh.

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