Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.

common ragweed

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Common ragweed is a native annual plant found throughout North America on roadsides, fields, cultivated ground and other disturbed sites. It has become invasive in much of the world including Central and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. Ragweed is a major cause of hay fever, an allergic reaction to its wind-borne pollen, in the late summer and fall. It is also a prolific producer of seeds that provide food for birds and small mammals. The plant was widely used by Native Americans as an herbal medicine, both externally and internally. Today, the pollen is harvested commercially for use in pharmaceuticals designed to treat hay fever.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), meadows and fields

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf type
leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
Leaf arrangement
  • alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
  • opposite: there are two leaves per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges
  • the edge of the leaf blade has lobes, or it has both teeth and lobes
  • the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
Flower type in flower heads
the flower head has disk flowers only, and lacks the strap-shaped flowers
Ray flower color
NA
Tuft or plume on fruit
NA
Spines on plant
the plant has no spines
Leaf blade length
25–90 mm
Flower head width
2–3 mm
Disk flower number
  • 1-5
  • 11-20
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Bases of bract appendages
    NA
    Bract color
    the bracts are not colored or tinged with pink, red or purple
    Bract cycle number
    there is one main cycle of bracts
    Bract outer side hair type
    • the bracts are hairy, with simple hairs on their outer surface
    • the bracts are not hairy on their outer surface
    Bract outer side hairs
    • the bracts are hairy on their outer surfaces
    • the bracts are not hairy on their outer surfaces
    Bract separation
    at least some flower heads have bracts connected to one another at or near their bases
    Bract shape
    the main bracts are of a different shape than the given options
    Bract spines
    the bracts are prickly on the outer side
    Bract texture
    • the bracts appear leathery or hardened
    • the bracts have a similar texture to a leaf
    Bract tip color
    the tips are the same color as the center of the bract
    Bract tip extension edge
    there are no projections from the bract tips
    Bracts
    there are at least two distinct forms of bracts in different cycles
    Disk flower color
    green to brown
    Disk flower lobe number
    5
    Disk flower number
    • 1-5
    • 11-20
    Disk flower reproductive parts
    the disk flower has either only pollen- or only seed-producing parts
    Disk flower shape
    the disk flower is tube-shaped (cylindrical), or gradually widening like a funnel
    Flower head number
    • each flowering stem has four or more flower heads on it
    • each flowering stem has only one to three flower heads on it
    Flower head outer flowers
    NA
    Flower head platform
    the base has papery scales on it
    Flower head position
    some or all the flower heads are grouped in clusters of two or more
    Flower head profile
    the disk is flat or nearly flat across the top
    Flower head shape
    the flower head is cup-shaped (the sides diverge, then curve upwards and become parallel)
    Flower head width
    2–3 mm
    Flower type in flower heads
    the flower head has disk flowers only, and lacks the strap-shaped flowers
    Height of flower head base
    3–5 mm
    Inflorescence branching (Solidago)
    NA
    Inflorescence shape
    • the flower heads grow in clusters from the axils of the branches or leaves
    • the inflorescence is not flat-topped but appears rounded, with some flower heads distinctly higher than others
    Inflorescence stem
    • hairs are present on the stem of the inflorescence
    • the stem of the inflorescence is not hairy
    Ovary attachment
    the ovary is attached at or near the base
    Ovary beak
    there is a beak on the ovary
    Ovary cross-section
    the ovary is roughly square or with four corners
    Ovary hair type
    the ovary has hairs on it, but the hairs have no glands
    Ovary hairs
    the ovary has hairs on it
    Ovary surface
    the ovary surface is textured with tiny points, bumps or wrinkles
    Peduncle length
    1–6 mm
    Ray flower color
    NA
    Ray flower reproductive parts
    NA
    Ray flowers
    0
    Ray length
    0 mm
    Reproductive system
    the flowers on the plant may have either carpels or stamens, but always in separate flowers
    Smaller bracts at base of bracts
    there is no smaller, outer cycle of bracts
    Style branch number
    the style has one branch
    Width of flower head base
    2–3 mm
  • Fruits or seeds
    Number of pappus parts
    0
    Ovary length in developed fruit
    3–3.5 mm
    Seed hair tuft bases
    NA
    Seed hair tuft color
    NA
    Seed hair tuft details
    NA
    Seed hair tuft length
    0 mm
    Seed hair tuft tips
    NA
    Seed hairs uniform
    NA
    Seed tuft scale number
    0
    Seed tuft type
    there is no pappus on the ovary
    Top of disk flower ovary
    NA
    Tuft or plume on fruit
    NA
  • Glands or sap
    Leaf blade glands
    the leaf blades have glandular (translucent) dots or scales
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant has one or more free-standing stems
    Plant lifespan
    the plant is annual, it lacks evidence of previous years' growth
    Spines on plant
    the plant has no spines
    Underground organs
    there is a thickened taproot on the plant
  • Leaves
    Final leaf segment width (compound lvs only)
    Up to 10 mm
    Hairs on underside of leaf blade
    the underside of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    the upper side of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    Leaf arrangement
    • alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
    • opposite: there are two leaves per node along the stem
    Leaf blade base
    the leaf has a distinct petiole
    Leaf blade base shape
    the base of the leaf blade is cuneate (wedge-shaped, tapers to the base with relatively straight, converging edges), or narrow
    Leaf blade bloom
    the underside of the leaf has no noticeable bloom
    Leaf blade edges
    • the edge of the leaf blade has lobes, or it has both teeth and lobes
    • the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
    Leaf blade hairs
    the leaf blade has simple hairs with no glands, and not tangled or wooly
    Leaf blade length
    25–90 mm
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is elliptic (widest near the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is lanceolate (lance-shaped; widest below the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is ovate (widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is triangular, with the stalk or attachment point on one of the sides
    Leaf blade surface colors
    there is no noticeable color variation on the upper surface of the leaf
    Leaf blade tip
    the tip of the leaf blade is acute (sharply pointed)
    Leaf blade veins
    the leaf blade has one main vein running from the base towards the tip
    Leaf blade width
    20–50 mm
    Leaf disposition
    the leaves are nearly similar in size, prominence of teeth, and length of stalks throughout the stem
    Leaf spines
    there are no spines on the leaf edges
    Leaf stalk
    the leaves have leaf stalks
    Leaf stalk length
    25–60 mm
    Leaf tip extension
    NA
    Leaf type
    leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Leaflet number
    0
    Specific leaf type
    • the leaf has a row of two or more lobes on each side of the central axis
    • the leaf has a row of two or more lobes on each side of the central axis, and each lobe itself has rows of lobes on each side of the lobe's central axis
    Teeth per side of leaf blade
    At least 0
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the plant does not have much of an odor
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Flowering stem cross-section
    the flowering stem is circular, or with lots of small angles
    Leaves on stem
    there is at least one full leaf above the base of the flowering stem
    Stem bloom
    there is no powdery or waxy film on the stem
    Stem internode hair direction
    • NA
    • the hairs point mostly upwards to outwards
    Stem internode hair length
    At least 0 mm
    Stem internode hair type
    • the hairs on the stem are plain, without glands or branches, and not tangled
    • the stem has no hairs between the nodes
    Stem internode hairs
    the stem has hairs between the nodes
    Stem wings
    the stem does not have wings on it

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in non-wetlands, but occasionally in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACU)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
widespread (S-rank: S5)

var. artemisiifolia

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. elatior

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. paniculata

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes and no (some introduced)

Sometimes Confused With

Ambrosia psilostachya:
leaf blades usually once pinnately lobed, plants perennial, and carpellate involucres with 4 tubercles near apex (vs. A. artemisiifolia, with leaf blades commonly twice pinnately lobed, plants annual, and carepellate involucres with 4-7 sharp spines near or above the middle).

Synonyms

  • Ambrosia artemisiifolia var. elatior (L.) Descourtils
  • Ambrosia artemisiifolia var. paniculata (Michx.) Blank.
  • Ambrosia elatior L.
  • Ambrosia monophylla (Walt.) Rydb.
  • Ambrosia paniculata Michx.

Family

Asteraceae

Genus

Ambrosia

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Ambrosia artemisiifolia L. N

common ragweed. Ambrosia artemisiifolia L. var. elatior (L.) Descourtils; A. artemisiifolia L. 
var. paniculata (Michx.) Blank.; A. elatior L.; A. monophylla (Walt.) Rydb.; A. paniculata Michx. 
• CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Roadsides, fields, areas of cultivation, disturbed soil.

1×4. Ambrosia artemisiifolia × Ambrosia trifida Ambrosia ×‌helenae Rouleau is an extremely rare ragweed hybrid known only from CT in New England. It ismost likely to be confused with A. trifida due to the palmately or subpalmately lobed leaf blades. However, the upper leaves (i.e., those subtending branches of the capitulescence) are frequently alternate, the lobes on the blades are often with additional lobes, and the staminate involucres have relatively weak veins (vs. leaves opposite throughout, lobes on leaf blades without additional lobes, and staminate involucres with 3 (–4) strong veins on one side in A. trifida).