Plant Description

Artemisia dracunculus
Wild Tarragon, Tarragon

Family: Sunflower (Asteraceae)

General Description:

Tarragon grows in clusters of thin, tall (1.5 to 4ft), reddish colored, often slightly hairy stems with thin, fragrant, linear leaves extending from the base to the tip. It has an extensive branched root system.

  • erect

Life Cycle:
  • woody perennial

  • shrub

  • Native

Phenology: Blooms in late August. The flowers bloom from bottom to top.

The southern Yukon and Alaska to New Mexico and east to the Mississippi River. It is also found in a few New England states. It is considered a weed and spreads easily.


There are over 20 species of sagebrush or wormwood (Artemesia) in our area. Tarragon is distinctive in having dark green narrow entire leaves and a tall narrow stature.

Did You Know?:

Is one of the first plant to return after an area has been burned. The roots are able to survive the fire and instantly regenerate after it is out. Tarragon was first recorded by the Greeks in 500BC as one of the "simple remedies" used in their medicine. It was thought it could draw venom from snake bites and sooth bug bites. The commercial spice, tarragon, is derived from the same species, but has a different flavor since it has been bred from tarragon in France.


The Chippiwa people used the root to aid the mother during difficult child labor. The leaves were chew to ease heart palpitations. They also used them to scent their bath water and to give strength to their elders. The Shuswap burned the herb to keep mosquitoes away. Today tarragon is used for its essential oils, as a common cooking spice and medicinally as a diuretic, to sooth stomach aches and as an antifungal. The root was used by the pioneers as a cure for tooth aches .


It has many small, branching, greenish to white flowers

Flower Arrangement:
  • head
Flower Color:
  • green
  • yellow-orange
Flowering Months:
  • fall
Flower Shape:
  • urn

Each flower produces one small dry seed in the fall but it also regenerates by sending out its fibrous roots as runners.

Fruit Type:
  • capsule

Alternate. Long 1/2 to3in (2-llcm), narrow, slightly hairy to hairless, dark, green leaves.

Leaf Arrangement:
  • alternate
Leaf Division:
  • simple
Leaf Margin:
  • smooth
Leaf Shape:
  • linear
Leaf Stem:
  • without stem

Warm, sunny, dry plains, grasslands or foothills at moderate elevations. It is common in disturbed areas but does not tolerate poorly drained soils.

Non-Forest Habitats:
  • disturbed
  • grassland
  • meadows
  • sagebrush
  • shrubland
Forest Habitats:
  • ponderosa pine
  • Hollie Sexton
  • USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. Date accessed: 6/22/04
  • Medicinal Herbs on Line. (2002). Date accessed: 8/25/04
  • 5. Kershaw,L.; MacKinnon,A.; Pojar, J. 1998. Plants of the Rocky Mountains. Lone Pine Publishing. Edmonton, AB Canada.
  • 11. USDA, NRCS. 2005. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5. USDA, NRCS. Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
  • 40. USFS FEIS. 2005. Fire Effects Information System. USFS Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory,Missoula, MT.
  • edible
  • spice
  • labor
  • mosquitos
  • diuretic
  • toothache
  • medicinal