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( Originally Published 1933 )

Old Man, Old Man's Love, Lad's Love, Maiden's Ruin




The gray, much threaded foliage suggests the name "Old Man." Bailey says the name Abrotanum means "elegant" in Greek, descriptive of the form of the leaves and their aromatic odor. This artemisia is a feathery gray-green plant and the leaves smell, without crushing, of daisies mixed with spice.

Root. The root is fibrous and brown.

Stem. The stems are gray marked with brown, round, glaucous, and a little furry. In my garden they grow about two feet high, but they are said to reach up to five feet.

Leaf. The gray-green leaves are pinnately divided into from one to three thread-like divisions.

Flower. The yellowish-white flowers are in a loose panicle. They are bisexual, and the receptacle is not hairy.


Parkinson says the seeds and dried herb were given to children to kill worms, and that the ashes of the dried herb mixed with oil causes the hair to grow back on the head and beard after it has fallen out.

For one who spoke in his sleep it was thought southernwood tempered with wine, and partaken of in the morning, and before going to bed at night would cure him. It was well known as a love charm.


The names are suggestive of its association with the God of Love and the consequences thereof, such as Lad's Love and Maiden's Ruin. The French name, Garderobe, which means guardian of clothes, that is, a closet, was derived from the fact that the dried stems of the southern-wood were supposed to keep the moths away, and so stand guard over the dresses.

The Pennsylvania Germans laid branches of it in the cupboards and pantries to keep out the ants.

Medicine. According to "Merck's Index" of 1907, it is used as a tonic, as a deobstruent and anthelmintic, and in aromatic baths and for poultices.


According to Miller's "Gardener's Dictionary," it is a popular plant in English cities for window boxes, for it endures the smoke of the city better than most plants and is fragrant besides.

The plants can be bought in America and are hardy. In my garden they thrive in a sunny situation in clay soil. I raised mine from divisions of the roots.

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