General: Sunflower Family (Asteraceae). Tarragon is a native perennial herb (5-15 dm tall). The stems form clusters and are reddish in color. They can be smooth or covered with short hairs. The leaves are linear to linear-lanceolate. The leaves range in size from 2-8 cm long and up to 6 mm wide. The inflorescences are branched and elongated with pedicellate flowers that mature from the bottom up. Both the whorl of bracts subtending the flower and the stalk of the inflorescence are hairless. The outer florets are fertile but lack stamens. The center florets are sterile.
Distribution: For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Habitat: Tarragon is found in dry open places. Common in areas of disturbance, tarragon, increases in frequency where disturbance results in decreased competition.
False tarragon, dragon sagewort
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: A. dracunculus occurs in eastern Europe and Asia, and throughout much of western North America, south from Alaska to northern Mexico, and westwards from Ontario, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Texas (USDA-NRCS 1999, Great Plains Flora Association 1986, Hulten 1968, Kartesz 1999). A. dracunculus also in occurs in New York and a few adjoining states (USDA-NRCS 1999), though these may represent more recent human introductions, as they are not listed in earlier journals (Gleason and Cronquist 1963). The Alaskan and many European populations may also result from human introductions (Hulten 1968). The taxon present in Manitoba is Artemisia dracunculus ssp. glauca, where it is at its northeastern limit and occurs in the southern third of the province, west of the Red River valley (Manitoba Conservation Data Centre).
States or Provinces
Regional Distribution in the Western United States
This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
2 Cascade Mountains
3 South Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
Tarragon is a fire-adapted species. It is top-killed by low-intensity fire, however, it is able to reestablish quickly from surviving rhizomes.
The following description of tarragon has been compiled from the following sources unless otherwise noted [1,2,7,20,41,42,45,46,62,64,79,89,116,124,127]. This description provides characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology, and is not meant for identification. Keys for identifying tarragon are available [2,7,42,45,62,124].
Tarragon is a woody, native perennial shrub with stem heights ranging from 15.7 to 59.1 inches (40-150 cm). Aerial stems arise from thick, horizontal rhizomes growing in clusters and singly. Leaves are alternate, 0.5 to 3.1 inches long (1.2-8.0 cm), and 0.04 to 0.24 inch (1-6 mm) wide. Basal leaves are cleft with 1 to 3 lobes. The inflorescence is a panicle with numerous flowers. Outer florets are pistillate and fertile, central flowers are sterile, and ovaries are abortive. The seeds are achenes. Seed size is approximately 0.06 inch (1.5 mm) in length.
Tarragon supports large numbers of adventitious roots containing interxylary cork (formed within xylem tissue), offering the plant protection in xeric habitats . One individual in Los Alamos, New Mexico was found to have a rooting depth of 83.9 inches (213 cm) . Tarragon forms associations with vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae .
Catalog Number: US 47378
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): C. G. Pringle
Year Collected: 1887
Locality: Sierra Madre., Chihuahua, Mexico, North America
Comments: A. dracunculus occurs to elevations of 3700m in dry open habitats, including prairies, rocky slopes, and roadsides (Cronquist et al. 1972, Hulten 1968). Habitat descriptions for this species frequently appear to be vague; the reason for this may be its frequent occurrence in a high number of community types. In Utah, ten community types are described for this species, including rabbitbrush shrublands, pinyon-juniper woodlands, and spruce-fir forests (Welsh et al. 1993). It is considered to be somewhat weedy in Colorado (Weber and Wittmann 1996a). It is described in Arizona from open coniferous forests and chaparral, from 3500-9000 feet (Kearney and Peebles 1951, Arizona Heritage Data Management System).
Tarragon has a wide distribution that encompasses a variety of site characteristics. It can be found in riparian zones , on floodplains and terraces [47,78], and at high mountain elevations [15,90,124]. It occurs in open, often dry places  associated with soils ranging from dry and sandy to moist and silty . It is found over the plains grasslands where conditions are favorable for shrubs  and on shaded mountainous slopes . It tolerates temperatures ranging from -48 ÂºF to 111 ÂºF (-44 ÂºC to 44 ÂºC ), soil pH values from 4.9 to 8.9 [57,112], and a precipitation range of 5.7 to 51.2 inches (145-1300 mm) [16,112]. Additional site characteristics are provided in the table below:
|State or |
|Location description||Elevation range||Precipitation range|
|AK||Rocky slopes and roadsides ||----||----|
|AZ||Deep, well drained cinder soils  |
Rocky, arid ranges 
|3,600-7,550 ft (1,097-2,301 m) [10,15,39]||6.8-26.0 inches (173-660 mm) |
|CA||Arid mesas, hillsides, pine woodlands, and meadows  |
Sandy, rocky alluvia 
Outwash fans and riverine deposits 
Dry sandy to gravelly soils from granitic parent material 
|7,300-11,000 ft (2,225-3,353 m) [90,91]||average 18.1 inches (460 mm) |
|CO||Upland loess deposits  |
Undeveloped rocky and gravelly soils 
Sandy, dry marshes and riparian areas [50,113]
Well drained shale sediment 
|1,325-10,300 ft (404-3,139 m) [27,50,104,113]||average 8.5-12.3 inches (215-312 mm) [50,113]|
|ID||Limestone derived from Paleozoic marine rocks  |
Abandoned hayfields and pastures created in riparian zones 
|IL||Dry sand and gravel prairies and barrens ||----||----|
|KS||Upland loess deposits ||----||----|
|MT||Stony, shallow, well-drained soils  |
Mesoxeric to xeric dry valley zones 
Silt loam soils 
Medium to coarse-textured soils 
Steep, rocky, wind blown slopes with little vegetation 
|3,000-8,202 ft (914-2,500 m) [27,44,48,81]||average 11.6-50+ inches (294-1270 mm) [29,44,48]|
|NE||Upland loess deposits ||----||average 22.0 inches (560 mm) |
|NM||Dry open slopes and plains  |
Gentle slopes, sandy loam to sandy in texture 
Erosion channel bisecting a floodplain 
|5,387-8,000 ft (1,642-2,438 m) [18,38,79]||average 8.1-15.0 inches (206-380 mm) [18,22]|
|NV||Stream benches, elevated terraces, meadow seeps and floodplains ||5,052-10,203 ft (1,540-3,110 m) |
|ND||Upland loess deposits |
Fluvial sand and gravel capped with aeolian sand and silt 
Fine textured shallow soils; Rolling sandy uplands with well-drained soils; uplands and flat terraces with loam to clay soils; level or hummocky terraces with loam to clay soils 
Excessively drained, poorly structured sandy and sandy loam soils 
Silty range site; glacial till site; silty ridges and hilltops 
|----||5.7-27.0 inches (145-686 mm) [16,19]|
|SD||Upland loess deposits  |
Well developed limestone derived soil 
|TX||----||1,000-8,751 ft (305-2,667 m) [56,100]||----|
|UT||Xeric portions of prairie vegetation types  |
Mid-elevation open mountain slopes 
|4,003-11,000 ft (1,220-3,353 m) [27,49,124]||10.0-18.0 inches (254-456 mm) |
|WA||Gravelly, sandy loam with moderate permeability ||1,099 ft (335 m) ||average 18.1-24.0 inches (460-610 mm) |
|WY||----||3,700-8,400 ft (1,128-2,560 m) ||----|
|AB||----||3,300-4,000 ft (1,006-1,219 m) ||----|
|BC||----||1,312-3,117 ft (400-950 m) ||----|
Key Plant Community Associations
Canada: In Alberta, tarragon is associated with riverine environments.
It can be found in river terrace depressions with thickspike wheatgrass(Elymus lanceolatus),
slender wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulus),
and prairie flax (Linum lewisii). In southern Alberta, on an alluvial fan in the Kootenay
Plains where fringed sagebrush (Artemisia
frigida) and prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha) were plentiful,
tarragon made up 16%-25% of the ground cover . In
southwestern Saskatchewan and neighboring southeastern Alberta, tarragon was
found with green needlegrass (Nassella viridula),
Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides),
and creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) . In
southern British Columbia, big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata)
and bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata)
were found on sites supporting tarragon populations .
Northwestern United States:
In Montana, tarragon is associated with sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass (Artemisia
spp.) communities. Other
species within this community include soapweed yucca (Yucca glauca),
broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), sideoats grama (Bouteloua
curtipendula), and blue grama (B. gracilis).
Tarragon is also found within the skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata)/bluebunch
wheatgrass community. Additional species in this community include soapweed
yucca, wax currant (Ribes cereum) and buckwheat (Eriogonum spp.) . Forbs associated with tarragon include ninebark (Physocarpus malvaceus)
and common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) in Montana  and rubber
rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) in Wyoming . Tarragon can also
be found within Pacific ponderosa pine stands (Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa) [14,44].
Southwestern United States:
In the southwestern states, tarragon is found in pinyon-juniper (Pinus-Juniperus
spp.) woodland and interior ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum)
forest types [38,39,55,124]. In interior ponderosa pine
forests, it occurs with mountain muhly (Muhlenbergia montana), western
wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), and western yarrow (Achillea
millefolium) . In Arizona it occurs alongside rubber rabbitbrush,
Apache-plume (Fallugia paradoxa), beardlip penstemon (Penstemon
barbatus), and common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) , and has been
identified at Oregon Pipe Cactus National Monument . Plant associates in New
Mexico include goldenweed (Pyrrocoma spp.), prairie sagebrush (Artemisia
frigida), tailcup lupine (Lupinus caudataus), gayfeather (Liatris
punctata), alfalfa (Medicago sativa), rubber rabbitbrush, sandbar
willow (Salix exigua), and black greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus) [22,37,38]. In southwestern New Mexico, tarragon was present 44 years after
cessation of livestock grazing, occurring in the boxelder-Arizona alder (Acer
negundo-Alnus oblongifolia) community type .
In Utah tarragon is associated with quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides),
fir-spruce (Picea-Abies spp.), salt desert shrub, and hanging
garden communities. It can be found with rubber rabbitbrush, sagebrush (Artemisia
spp.), menziesia (Menziesia ferruginea), and wildrye (Elymus spp.) . In Zion National Park tarragon is both common and modal in abandoned
fields  and constitutes 2% of cover in quaking aspen communities . In
northern Utah it occurs on mountain grasslands where bluebunch wheatgrass is
In Colorado tarragon is found in marshes along the Colorado River with bushy
bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus),
yellow salsify (Tragopogon dubius),
and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) . It occurs within 4 steppe communities in the foothills of the Colorado
Front Range, constituting 0% cover and 1% frequency in big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii),
porcupine grass (Hesperostipa spartea), and New Mexico feathergrass (H. neomexicana) communities and
4% cover and 34% frequency in the
needle-and-thread grass (H. comata) community . It
has been found in little bluestem-sideoats grama (Schizachyrium scoparium-Bouteloua
curtipendula) community types  and on a disturbed site with Thurber fescue (Festuca thurberi),
western yarrow, and dandelion .
In Nevada tarragon is found predominantly in the willow (Salix spp.)
community types. It is associated primarily with stream benches, but also occurs
on terraces, floodplains, seeps, and meadows. Its highest percentage and
greatest range of average cover (1%-35%) occurs in the
yellow willow (S. lutea)-mesic forb community type while its
highest constancy occurs in the conifer-mesic forb
community type . In Texas, tarragon is found with manyflowered stoneseed (Lithospermum multiflorum)
on Mount Livermore .
Great Plains: In North Dakota, South Dakota,
Nebraska, and Kansas, tarragon occurs in the little bluestem-sideoats grama
community type . It is found in the Black Hills of South Dakota with sedges
(Carex spp.), blue grama, western wheatgrass, and Japanese brome (Bromus
japonicus) , and occurs in the tallgrass prairie systems with big
bluestem, little bluestem, Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), and
switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) . In Nebraska, it associates with
prairie sandreed (Calamovilfa longifolia), sand bluestem (A. gerardii
var. paucipilus), and little bluestem .
Tarragon in the northern Great Plains can be found with western wheatgrass,
blue grama, needle-and-thread grass, and mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia
tridentata var. vaseyana) . In green needlegrass communities of
western North Dakota, it is associated with blue lettuce (Lactuca pulchella)  and prairie reedgrass (Calamovilfa longifolia) .
Tarragon in southwestern North Dakota is associated with multiple habitat and
community types. One of the habitat types in which tarragon is dominant is the
prairie sandreed-threadleaf sedge (Carex filifolia)-needle-and-thread
grass habitat, where rush skeletonplant (Lygodesmia
juncea) is a characteristic forb. The 2nd type in which tarragon is
characteristic is the needle-and-thread grass-threadleaf sedge-needleleaf sedge-sun
sedge (Carex duriuscula-C. heliophila) habitat, where
fringed sagebrush and prairie sage (Artemisia ludoviciana) are
characteristic forbs. Other habitat types where tarragon was found include
mountain big sagebrush-blue grama, mountain big sagebrush-shadscale (Atriplex
confertifolia), sand bluestem-prairie sandreed, western
wheatgrass-needle-and-thread, western wheatgrass-blue grama, and
little bluestem-creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)
. The community types that tarragon is associated with in southwestern
North Dakota include prairie sandreed-needle-and-thread grass-threadleaf sedge,
western wheatgrass-needle-and-thread grass-blue grama, western wheatgrass-green
needlegrass-blue grama, western wheatgrass-blue grama-buffalo grass (Buchloe
dactyloides), and little bluestem-needle-and-thread grass-threadleaf sedge
Habitat: Rangeland Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following Rangeland Cover Types (as classified by the Society for Range Management, SRM):
More info for the terms: cover, shrub
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
101 Bluebunch wheatgrass
107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass
109 Ponderosa pine shrubland
110 Ponderosa pine-grassland
301 Bluebunch wheatgrass-blue grama
303 Bluebunch wheatgrass-western wheatgrass
310 Needle-and-thread-blue grama
314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
315 Big sagebrush-Idaho fescue
402 Mountain big sagebrush
408 Other sagebrush types
412 Juniper-pinyon woodland
414 Salt desert shrub
504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland
507 Palo verde-cactus
706 Blue grama-sideoats grama
721 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (plains)
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
More info for the term: cover
SAF COVER TYPES :
237 Interior ponderosa pine
238 Western juniper
243 Sierra Nevada mixed conifer
245 Pacific ponderosa pine
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
KUCHLER  PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K016 Eastern ponderosa forest
K018 Pine-Douglas-fir forest
K019 Arizona pine forest
K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland
K024 Juniper steppe woodland
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K046 Desert: vegetation largely lacking
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES38 Plains grasslands
Tarragon is drought tolerant species. Tarragon grows best in well-drained fertile soil and in full sunlight. Division can achieve propagation. Tarragon also produces numerous wind-dispersed achenes in the fall. Each individual plant should be lifted and divided in early spring every two years. The divisions should be planted 24 inches apart and the roots should be place 2-3 inches deep.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Comments: Tens of thousands of populations are extant rangewide, with large areas of Nevada, Wyoming, British Columbia, Nebraska, and Arizona reportedly occupied by this species. Wyoming: >100; British Columbia: common; Manitoba: 21-100; Ontario: one, presumed at the eastern edge of its native range, though possibly adventive because it is near a railroad track; Nevada: very widespread, both geographically and in elevation; Kansas: 50-75, overlooked and underrepresented in herbaria; Illinois: two; Nebraska: common; California: common; Colorado: "frequent and often weedy" (Weber and Wittmann 1996a, Weber and Wittmann 1996b).; Missouri: 5 historical occurrences ssp. glauca; Arizona: occurs through much of the state (Kearney and Peebles 1951); Idaho: extremely common, in some places with weedy tendencies; New York: considered a rare introduction (Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centres).
Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire
Tarragon has been observed before and after 2 prescribed burns and 1 natural
fire [28,37,68]. Four years after a prescribed summer burn in western North
Dakota, the frequency of tarragon was nearly 3 times that found in an adjacent
unburned area. It was speculated that the increase was due to a reduction in interference
of other species following the fire and the species' ability to inhabit disturbed sandy soils and
On Hightower Mountain in western Colorado, tarragon experienced a 90%
reduction in population 2 years following a prescribed burn. Composition of the
population dropped from 0.11% to 0.01% . In
Los Alamos, New Mexico, tarragon constituted 0.14% actual cover and 0.30%
relative cover in an area that had burned in 1960. After the 1977 La Mesa fire,
studies conducted to determine long-term vegetative impacts found no tarragon 1,
8, or 16 years after the fire .
Plant Response to Fire
Immediate Effect of Fire
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil
Geophyte, growing points deep in soil
Fire adaptations: There is no information in the literature regarding fire adaptations of tarragon. It is likely that rhizomes located underground survive fire and sprout. Tarragon has been observed following prescribed burns [28,68]. It is unclear how seeds are affected by fire or if postfire seedling establishment is common in tarragon. Further research is needed on fire adaptations of tarragon.
FIRE REGIMES: Tarragon is present in a variety of community types with a wide range of FIRE REGIMES associated with them. In ponderosa pine ecosystem types, understory fires occur at intervals of 2 to 10 years and mixed-severity fires occur from less than 35- to 200-year intervals. In pinyon-juniper ecosystems, tarragon experiences fire return intervals of less than 35 years .
The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where tarragon is important. For further information, see the FEIS review of the dominant species listed below.
|Community or Ecosystem||Dominant Species||Fire Return Interval Range (years)|
|bluestem prairie||Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium||66,93]|
|Nebraska sandhills prairie||Andropogon gerardii var. paucipilus-Schizachyrium scoparium||<10|
|sagebrush steppe||Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata||20-70 |
|basin big sagebrush||Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata||12-43 |
|mountain big sagebrush||Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana||15-40 [5,17,85]|
|plains grasslands||Bouteloua spp.||93,129]|
|blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass||Bouteloua gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii||93,105,129]|
|paloverde-cactus shrub||Parkinsonia microphylla/Opuntia spp.||93]|
|wheatgrass plains grasslands||Pascopyrum smithii||<5-47+ [93,101,129]|
|pinyon-juniper||Pinus-Juniperus spp.||<35 |
|Pacific ponderosa pine*||Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa||1-47 |
|interior ponderosa pine*||Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum||2-30 [4,6,75]|
|mountain grasslands||Pseudoroegneria spicata||3-40 (Âµ=10) [3,4]|
|little bluestem-grama prairie||Schizachyrium scoparium-Bouteloua spp.||<35 |
More info for the terms: climax, cover, density, frequency, xeric
Tarragon grows in the pine-oak (Pinus-Quercus spp.) woodlands on shaded slopes of the Rincon Mountains in Arizona . In Utah, tarragon is recognized as a weedy plant species due to its ability to colonize disturbed sites . In southeastern North Dakota, tarragon is considered a pioneer, transitional, and climax species with greatest frequency and cover as a climax species and the least as a pioneer species .
On a subalpine Earth flow that occurred in Colorado around 1923, tarragon was characteristic of both flow and slump areas during the 7-year period in which vegetation studies were being conducted (1947-1954, with the exception of 1953). It occupied both areas of disturbance with equal density and was important in both floodplain and xeric site revegetation .
Breeding system: Population outcrossing has been documented for sagebrush species .
Seed production: When grown for culinary or medicinal purposes, it is reported that tarragon rarely produces seed . When grown hydroponically, tarragon was reported to produce no seed at all .
Seed dispersal: Artemisia species are not able to disperse seeds far from the mother plant .
Seed banking: No information is available on this topic.
Germination: Commercially grown tarragon requires 10 to 14 days to germinate. Germination is dependant upon soil characteristics and weather conditions .
Seedling establishment/growth: No information is available on this topic.
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
Fire Management Considerations
Life History and Behavior
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Artemisia dracunculus
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Artemisia dracunculus
Public Records: 8
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Reasons: This species is quite widely distributed and very common, at least in portions of its range. It is described as weedy (Weber and Wittmann 1996a, Weber and Wittmann 1996b) and appears to have been introduced in parts of its range. The current level of harvest of this species for spices and for medicinal purposes does not seem to be compromising any populations.
Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g. threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values). It is endangered in Illinois as of 2006.
Global Short Term Trend: Increase of 10 to >25%
Comments: Many sources suggest that this species is introduced in parts of its range (Hulten 1968, USDA-NRCS 1999, Gleason and Cronquist 1963, Swink and Wilhelm 1994), and this indicates that the extent of A. dracunculus's distribution may be increasing naturally as well as through human actions. Furthermore, the possibility that A. dracunculus is weedy (Weber and Wittmann 1996a, Weber and Wittmann 1996b) raises the possibility that it may even be favored by the conditions now present and developing across much of the landscape.
Comments: There are no reports from botanists that there is evidence of plant collecting or any obvious impacts on the species due to this practice. However, given the ubiquity of this species, and the multitude of uses that this plant serves, it is certainly being collected to at least a small extent. Robyn Klein (pers. comm.) states that this and other species of Artemisia are collected for medicinal uses and to make smudge bundles, but that it is unlikely that it is in danger of overharvesting.
In Manitoba, Native Americans may collect this species as they do other Artemisia spp. for cultural/medicinal use. Collection of Artemisia species has been observed in and around reserves (Manitoba Conservation Data Centre).
It is listed as "an herb that can be commonly gathered" (Frontier Co-op 2000). It is collected by hand, which is laborious. Other species, such as A. tridentata and A. ludoviciana, are more commonly collected than this species (Robyn Klein pers. comm.).
An individual from the U.S. herbal medicinal industry states that this plant receives minor usage outside its use as a spice (French tarragon), for which it is cultivated and imported (McGuffin pers. comm.).
In North America, towards the eastern edges of its range, many of the habitats which may have supported this species have been destroyed over the last 200 years for agriculture, urban or suburban development, and materials mining. Also along this eastern zone, it is possible that habitat degradation is a significant threat to remaining populations; natural communities in this region are often greatly dissected by agriculture and development, and subsequent alterations in landscape processes are altering many habitats. In contrast, threats to the habitat of this species towards the interior of its range (the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, Great Basin, etc.) may be merely sporadic at this time. In Manitoba, threats are grazing, mowing, and tillage (Manitoba Conservation Data Centre). Current rates of wild harvest of this species do not appear to be having a noticeable impact, but renewed interest in this species as a medicinal herb is likely to result in increased wild harvest in the future (Edward Fletcher pers. comm.).
Pests and potential problems
Tarragon may suffer from root rot or mildew if not planted in well-drained soil.
Biological Research Needs: A conservation strategy for A. dracunculus in North America could entail higher protection towards the population peripheries (as interior populations may be more secure because they are less community type-associated and more numerous). If this is the case it will be important to delineate the original natural extent of this species in the rough vicinities of the northern Canada and Alaska, the tallgrass prairie region states, and the eastern states. Levels of collection in the wild by the medicinal herb industry should be monitored. Locations of the sources of plant material should be documented for this species, and populations should be monitored to assess the sustainability of collection.
Extracts derived from leaf material of tarragon displayed various effects on the
germination of 18 species. Growth was inhibited in field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense),
lacy tansyaster (Haplopappus spinulosus), and largebracted plantain (Plantago patagonica) while
growth in needle-and-thread grass was enhanced . Treatments of a 2,4-D,
diesel oil mixture applied to control little spikemoss (Selaginella
densa) on rangeland resulted in a 90%-95%
reduction in tarragon density .
In western Colorado, the effects of spraying, burning, and chaining were
evaluated for their effectiveness in increasing forage for deer, elk,
and cattle. Although none of the treatments were significantly different
(P<0.05) with effect to tarragon production, spraying reduced percent composition from
0.46%-0.01%, burning from 0.11%-0.01%, and chaining increased percent composition
from 0.00%-0.01% .
Tarragon is one species of sagebrush which is fed upon in small amounts by
the sagebrush grasshopper (Melanoplus bowditchi) . In
semiarid mountain ecosystems, the presence of ant mounds was positively correlated (p less than 0.01)
to the occurrence of tarragon within a 3m radius of the mound .
Volatile oils found in tarragon can cause skin irritation in livestock [116,117].
Please contact your local agricultural extension specialist or county weed specialist to learn what works best in your area and how to use it safely. Always read label and safety instructions for each control method. Trade names and control measures appear in this document only to provide specific information. USDA, NRCS does not guarantee or warranty the products and control methods named, and other products may be equally effective.
Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)
These materials are readily available from commercial plant sources.
This plant may become weedy or invasive in some regions or habitats and may displace desirable vegetation if not properly managed. Please consult with your local NRCS Field Office, Cooperative Extension Service office, or state natural resource or agriculture department regarding its status and use. Weed information is also available from the PLANTS Web site.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Uses: FOOD, MEDICINE/DRUG, LANDSCAPING, OTHER USES/PRODUCTS
Production Methods: Wild-harvested
Comments: Robyn Klein (pers. comm.) states that this and other species of Artemisia are collected for medicinal uses and to make smudge bundles, but that it is unlikely that it is in danger of overharvesting. The medicinal applications of this plant are numerous and are similar to many other species of Artemisia. It is reportedly an antibacterial used to treat staph and strep infections, an anti malarial, and an immune booster. Its properties are reportedly bitter, acrid, and warm, with activity principally on the spleen, liver, and kidneys (Frontier Co-op 2000). However, the previous reference also lists Artemisia species as "cold substances" that "reduce inflammation in the body and tend to sedating in nature." Its action is classified here as "descending," which "facilitates downward circulation." As such the genus Artemisia is listed as an anti-tussive, diuretic, emmenagogue, laxative, purifier, and sedative. It is also reported to be effective against internal parasites (Frontier Co-op 2000).
Prices for this species were found as follows:
Squaw Valley, California, nursery, internet: $3.25/potted plant
Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites
Tarragon is difficult to root  and does not establish well from seed. In southeastern Montana, tarragon was examined for future land reclamation possibilities on sites disturbed by coal mines. Hand-stripping the seed was necessary and optimum germination was obtained from 12 month old seed exposed to 68 ÂºF (20 ÂºC) temperatures without light or by alternating light with 68 ÂºF to 77 ÂºF (20Âº-25 ÂºC) temperatures. This study determined that there was no optimal planting time.
In western North Dakota, tarragon made up 28% of the species found in unbrowsed plains grasslands bordering active mining sites, indicating a potential source for seed when reclaiming surface mine sites . It has been suggested that tarragon also be investigated for its ability to regenerate salt desert shrub ranges .
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
Tarragon provides forage for elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, sharp-tailed grouse, and livestock [11,35,51,69,109,116,117,130]. Observations in the Flat Top Ridge Community of North Dakota suggest that tarragon is an important species for bighorn sheep . For Rocky Mountain mule deer, amounts consumed in the summer constitute less than 1% of their diet with minimal amounts also being consumed during the winter and spring months . Tarragon accounts for 6% of plants browsed by pronghorn and 1% for elk and mule deer in Wind Cave National Park of northwestern South Dakota . In southwestern Utah tarragon is listed as intermediate in terms of its desirability as forage for domestic sheep .
Palatability/nutritional value: Reports on the palatability of tarragon vary by region, habitat type, and foraging species. In west-central Montana, bighorn sheep, elk, white-tailed deer, and mule deer browse on tarragon associated with bunchgrass communities; steep, rocky, wind blown slopes; and a 40- to 50-year-old burn . A study conducted in eastern Washington found tarragon fair to poor in palatability while finding that populations of tarragon increase as a response to browsing . In Wyoming, tarragon provides important forage for pronghorn during winter months and during spring and summer green-up  while providing seeds for sharp-tailed grouse in western states [116,117].
Tarragon in the northern Great Plains was rated 30% in palatability for cattle. It is aromatic but not bitter and does not do well under heavy browsing pressure . Elsewhere in the Great Plains, tarragon is considered to have little value as forage  and in Nebraska is not browsed by cattle in June or July . In Trans-Pecos Texas, it is considered good forage for cattle and wildlife .
Tarragon provides valuable forage for domestic sheep but has little value for cattle in western states [116,117]. Dittberner and Olson  report the palatability and nutritional value of tarragon for wildlife and domestic livestock in several western states as follows:
|Small nongame birds||----||----||Fair||----||----|
|Upland nongame birds||----||----||Fair||----||----|
Cover value: Tarragon cover for wildlife is rated as follows :
|Upland game birds||----||----||Poor|
|Small nongame birds||Poor||----||Fair|
Other uses and values
Ethnobotanic: Tarragon had a wide array of medicinal uses among the Chippewa. The root was used as a gynecological aid to reduce excessive flowing during the menstrual cycle and to aid in difficult labor. The leaves of tarragon were chewed for heart palpitations. The root was also used to make a bath for strengthening children and a steam for strengthening elders. The Shuswap used the plant as a gynecological aid during childbirth. The Shuswap also burned tarragon to keep away mosquitoes. The Ramah Navaho made a lotion from the plant to aid in healing cuts.
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is a species of perennial herb in the family Asteraceae. One sub-species, Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa, is cultivated for use of the leaves as an aromatic culinary herb. In some other sub-species, the characteristic aroma is largely absent. The species is polymorphic. Informal names for distinguishing the variations include "French tarragon" (best for culinary use), "Russian tarragon" (typically better than wild tarragon but not as good as so-called French tarragon for culinary use), and "wild tarragon" (covers various states).
Tarragon is found natively in a number of areas of the Northern Hemisphere. It grows to 120–150 cm tall, with slender branched stems. The leaves are lanceolate, 2–8 cm long and 2–10 mm broad, glossy green, with an entire margin. The flowers are produced in small capitulae 2–4 mm diameter, each capitulum containing up to 40 yellow or greenish-yellow florets. French tarragon, however, seldom produces any flowers (or seeds). Some tarragon plants produce seeds that are generally only sterile. Others produce viable seeds. Tarragon has rhizomatous roots and it readily reproduces from the rhizomes.
French tarragon is the variety generally considered best for the kitchen, but is never grown from seed as the flowers are sterile; instead it is propagated by root division. It is normally purchased as a plant, and some care must be taken to ensure that true French tarragon is purchased. A perennial, it normally goes dormant in winter. It likes a hot, sunny spot, without excessive watering.
Russian tarragon (A. dracunculoides L.) can be grown from seed but is much weaker in flavor when compared to the French variety. However, Russian tarragon is a far more hardy and vigorous plant, spreading at the roots and growing over a meter tall. This tarragon actually prefers poor soils and happily tolerates drought and neglect. It is not as strongly aromatic and flavorsome as its French cousin, but it produces many more leaves from early spring onwards that are mild and good in salads and cooked food. Russian tarragon loses what flavor it has as it ages and is widely considered useless as a culinary herb, though it is sometimes used in crafts. The young stems in early spring can be cooked as an asparagus substitute. Horticulturists recommend that Russian tarragon be grown indoors from seed and planted out in the summer. The spreading plants can be divided easily.
A better substitute for French tarragon is Spanish tarragon (Tagetes lucida), also known as Mexican mint marigold, Mexican tarragon, Texas tarragon, or winter tarragon. It is much more reminiscent of French tarragon, with a hint of anise. Although not in the same genus as the other tarragons, Spanish tarragon has a stronger flavor than Russian tarragon that does not diminish significantly with age.
Tarragon has an aromatic property reminiscent of anise, due to the presence of estragole, a known carcinogen and teratogen in mice. The European Union investigation revealed that the danger of estragole is minimal even at 100–1,000 times the typical consumption seen in humans. Estragole concentration in fresh tarragon leaves is about 2900 mg/kg.
Tarragon is one of the four fines herbes of French cooking, and is particularly suitable for chicken, fish and egg dishes. Tarragon is the main flavoring component of Béarnaise sauce. Fresh, lightly bruised sprigs of tarragon are steeped in vinegar to produce tarragon vinegar.
Tarragon is used to flavor a popular carbonated soft drink in the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia and, by extension, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The drink, named Tarhun (Armenian pronunciation: [tɑɾˈxun] Թարխուն), is made out of sugary tarragon concentrate and colored bright green.
A. dracunculus oil contained predominantly phenylpropanoids such as methyl chavicol (16.2%) and methyl eugenol (35.8%). Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry analysis of the essential oil revealed the presence of trans-anethole (21.1%), α-trans-ocimene (20.6%), limonene (12.4%), α-pinene (5.1%), allo-ocimene (4.8%), methyl eugenol (2.2%), β-pinene (0.8%), α-terpinolene (0.5%), bornyl acetate (0.5%) and bicyclogermacrene (0.5%) as the main components.
- Artemisia dracunculus was described in Linnaeus's Species Plantarum 2:849. 1753. "Taxon: Artemisia dracunculus L.". GRIN Taxonomy for Plants. GRIN. 2014-08-17.
- "Artemisia dracunculus". Missouri Botanical Garden.
- McGee, R. M.; Stuckey, M. (2002). The Bountiful Container. Workman Publishing. ISBN 9780761116233.
- Harper, Douglas. "tarragon". Online Etymology Dictionary.
- Zeller, A.; Rychlik, M. (2007). "Impact of estragole and other odorants on the flavour of anise and tarragon". Flavour and Fragrance Journal 22 (2): 105–113. doi:10.1002/ffj.1765.
- Gatfield, I. L.; Ley, J. P.; Foerstner, J.; Krammer, G.; Machinek, A. Production of cis-pellitorin and use as a flavouring. World Patent WO2004000787 A2
- Lopes-Lutz, D. S.; Alviano, D. S.; Alviano, C. S.; Kolodziejczyk, P. P. (2008). "Screening of chemical composition, antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of Artemisia essential oils". Phytochemistry 69 (8): 1732–1738. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2008.02.014. PMID 18417176.
- Sayyah, M.; Nadjafnia, L.; Kamalinejad, M. (2004). "Anticonvulsant activity and chemical composition of Artemisia dracunculus L. Essential oil". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 94 (2–3): 283–287. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2004.05.021. PMID 15325732.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Two subspecies of A. dracunculus (glauca and dracunculus) were recognized by Kartesz (1994), but Kartesz (1999) considers them to be synonyms. A. dracunculus "apparently intergrades to a limited extent with Artemisia campestris subsp. caudata, especially in the southern Great Plains." (Great Plains Flora Association 1986)
Artemisia dracunculoides Pursh
Artemisia dracunculus var. glauca (Pallas ex Willd.) Bess.
Artemisia dracunculus ssp. glauca (Pallas ex Willd.) Hall & Clements
Artemisia glauca Pall. 
Oligosporus dracunculus ssp. dracunculinus (S. Wats.) W.A. Weber
Oligosporus dracunculus ssp. glaucus (Pallas ex Willd.) A.& D. LÃ¶ve 
L. (Asteraceae) [9,20,26,30,31,32,41,42,58,65,72,79,87,100,124,127].
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