Field Guide

A rugged rud­eral with a prodi­gious drive to thrive, Ma­tri­caria dis­coidea is also a tasty and use­ful sur­prise

Canadian Wildlife - - FEATURES - By Mel Wal­wyn

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.