This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Absinth is not found in early deposits, but is confined at the present day to the North Temperate Zone, in Europe, N. Africa, N. and W. Asia, the Himalayas, and North America. In Great Britain it occurs in the Peninsula, Channel and Thames provinces, except in Bucks, in Anglia and the Severn provinces, in Wales in Glamorgan, Brecon, Carmarthen, Pembroke, Merioneth, Carnarvon, Denbigh. Anglesea, in the Trent province, except in N. Lines, the Mersey province, except in Mid Lanes, the Humber province, except in S.E. Yorks, in the Tyne province generally and the Isle of Man; in Scotland in Berwick, Haddington, Edinburgh, Linlithgow, Fife, W. Perth, Forfar, E. Ross, Orkney, and Shetland. It ascends, as a cultivated plant, to 2200 ft. in Northumberland. In N. and W. Scotland it is rare, and it is doubtfully native in Ireland.
Absinth is to all intents and purposes native only along the sea-coast, as Watson remarks, but it grows inland in a variety of places, having been used for medicinal and other purposes. So it is found on waste ground, and in gardens and similar places where it is evident that man has planted it.
This is a tall, handsome, branched plant with bi- or tri-pinnatifid leaves, i.e. with lobes divided nearly to the base, and narrow linear - acute segments, with both sides of the rather broadly oval leaves silky and downy, white on both sides. The flowerheads are yellow, and arranged in hemispherical drooping heads. Only the outer florets, which are small, produce fruit. The receptacle is softly downy, with the outer phyllaries or whorl of leaflike organs linear and silky, the under ones round and scarious with a semi-transparent border.
Absinth grows at least 18 in. high, but often 3 ft. The flowers are in bloom in July and September. The plant is perennial and propagated by division.
The flowers in Artemisia Dracunculus are pollinated by the wind, and the same applies to this plant.
There is no pappus or hair, but the fruit or achene is adapted for dispersal by the wind, the branches being easily swayed to and fro. Absinth is a sand-loving plant growing in sand soil. A fungus, Puccinia tanaceti, is found on the leaves. A beetle, Mordellistaria pusilla, several moths, Wormwood Moth (Cucullia Absynthii), Ling Pug (Eupithecia minutata), Bordered Lime Speck (E. succenturiata), Wormwood Pug (E. absynthiata), Botys stictualis, Halonota boenella, and the Ground Lackey (Clisiocampa cas-trensis), Grapholitha wimmerana, G. pipil/ana, Ringed Carpet (Boarmia cinctaria), two Homoptera, Eupteryx tenella, Aphalara artemisia, two Heteroptera, Seherus bicolor, Plagiognathus albipennis, and the flies Cecidomyia foliorum, Spilographa artemisiae, Leucopis annulipest are found on it.
Photo. W. E. Mayes - Absinth (Artemisia Absinthium, L.)
The name Artemisia, Hippocrates, is derived, so Pliny says, from the goddess Artemis, goddess of Chastity, Absinthium, Dioscorides, is the Latin name for wormwood, taken from the Greek apsinthion.
The names Absinth, Maderwort, Mingwort, Mugwort, Old Woman, Warmot, Wormwood, are all applied to this plant.
In reference to Absinth, Benevenuto, 1612, says: "Absinth and poyson be my sustenance."
When seen in dreams it was regarded as a good omen. On St. Luke's day a maiden was told to "Take marigold flowers, a sprig of marjoram, thyme, and a little wormwood; dry them before a fire, rub them to powder, then sift it through a fine piece of lawn; simmer these with a small quantity of virgin honey, in white vinegar, over a slow fire; with this anoint your stomach, breasts, and lips, lying down, and repeat these words thrice: ' St. Luke, St. Luke, be kind to me, In dream let me my true love see.'
This said, hasten to sleep, and in the soft slumbers of night's repose, the very man whom you shall marry shall appear before you." It was called St. John's Girdle in Germany, and in Sicily St. John's Beard.
In the Middle Ages it was often used as a remedy. It is said to be tonic, antispasmodic, and antiseptic applied externally. It has also been used in fevers, gout, scurvy, dropsy. It is said to be of use as a stomachic. The seeds are used in rectifying spirits. It used to be hung up to prevent infection, and with Rue was put in the dock by the prisoner's side to prevent jail fever. It flavours absinth and is used in beer abroad.
Essential Specific Characters: 162. Artemisia Absinthium, L. - Stem erect, bushy, leaves lanceolate, silky, segments blunt, bipinnatifid, flowerheads drooping, dull yellow, in hemispherical heads.