A rugged ruderal with a prodigious drive to thrive, Matricaria discoidea is also a tasty and useful surprise
A rugged ruderal with a prodigious drive to thrive, a cousin of the daisy, pineapple weed is also a tasty and useful surprise
Rubbed, it smells like pineapple. Steeped, it tastes like chamomile. Dried, it makes a soothing salve. This multitalented plant is Matricaria discoidea, commonly called pineapple weed, also known to many as wild chamomile, rayless mayweed or disc mayweed.
An annual, it is a member of the aster family, so it is related to the daisy. You can see some family resemblance in the leaves. The “dirty green” and fleshy stem grows erect up to 30 centimetres, with long divided leaves alternating on the
stalk. In spring through summer, it is topped by a single yellowgreen cone (or often multiples) on short stalks.
Pineapple weed is ruderal (from the Latin rudus, for rubble), meaning it is happy in disturbed lands — on rocky footpaths and roadways, in post-wildfire areas, on and around construction sites and among abandoned settlements. The weed’s superpower is that it can produce copious number of seeds at an incredibly fast rate: “From seed to seed in less than 100 days,” according to a Finnish fan site. This efficient fecundity, combined with its robust nature, takes pineapple weed everywhere. In Canada, it thrives in eight provinces and the Yukon. It has a wide global span as well, from Mexico’s Baja California to the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian far east, from southern Iran to Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido. It has been naturalized in Britain.
A close relative of chamomile, pineapple weed has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat gynecological disorders and as an anti-inflammatory, an anti-spasmodic and a sedative. According to the Native American Ethnobotany Database, it was used as a remedy for fever, colic and indigestion, as a salve for infected cuts and sores, and before and after childbirth. The Crow people of what is now Montana dried the weed and crushed it, using it to line infants’ beds. In northern climes, the appearance of the yellowish cone was a harbinger of salmonberry picking.
Just before ripening, the flowers taste pleasantly sweet and fruity. They are good in salads, while a quick Google search offers numerous recipes for flans, cheesecake, jellies, even how to make your own pineapple weed sugar. And, of course, like chamomile, dried or fresh it makes a soothing and subtle tea.