This pungent aroma makes it difficult to perceive of Southernwood
as a culinary herb, but it has been used as such in the past. Reputed to
have been used with fatty meats, the result must have been extremely
bitter (no doubt the reason its use was discontinued).
There are records that indicate the Shakers were dealing
with Southernwood as a medicinal herb as early as 1830. It was
reported for use in obstructions and in treating children for
Today, Southernwood is most appreciated for its
contribution to the landscape both for its soft sea-green appearance and for
its fragrance, which is a woodsy citrus smell. Flowering is rare and,
when it does occur, it is like those of most Artemisias: disappointing. The
flowers are small yellow buttons that turn a most disagreeable brownish cream. Fortunately, shearing the plants to between
18 inches and two feet produces not only sturdy growth, but eliminates the
odd flower stalk.
Southernwood leaves keep their
fragrance when dried which makes them a good choice for adding to sachets or
Artemisias are truly amazing. They take many
different forms from ground covers to large shrubs and run the gamut of
colored foliage from
silvery shades like those of Powis
Castle Artemisia and Silver Southernwood to soft vibrant greens like those of
African Wormwood and Southernwood.