Common Ragweed

Common RagweedThis large family (Asteraceae), commonly called the Aster Family, consists of 1,314 genera and 21,000 species of herbs, shrubs, climbers and a few trees is found chiefly in temperate and subtropical regions.  The plants are of value to man as ornamentals; a few are insecticides and fish poisons. The genus Ambrosia means “the food of the Gods that impart immortality” and artemisiifolia means “with leaves of Artemiaia”. Gerard (1633) wrote that the “fragrant smell” of Ambrosia “hath moved the poets to suppose that this herbe was meate and food for the gods.”  Fernald (1950), however, concludes that the name is “most inappropriate since the pollen of these and related bitter plants is the worst cause of hayfever”. Manasseh Cutler called it Conot-Weed.  He wrote (1785) that it was mistaken for an Aremisia and “generally called Roman Wormwood…used in anticeptic fomentations.  When it abounds amongst rye or barley, the seeds are thrashed out with the grain, and will give bread, mode of it, a bitter and disagreeable taste”—and thus Bitterweed. Common Ragweed is found in cultivated and fallow fields, along roadsides and city lots.  It occurs regularly with grain crops and commonly takes over the fields as soon as the grain is harvested. Common Ragweed is important for gamebirds, including the bobwhite, quail, and for many of the best loved songbirds such as goldfinch, song sparrow, and junco.  The seeds are rich in oil and the seed production per plant is enormous.  Some of the seeds persist on the plants into winter and remain available for use when, in the North, other food is covered by snow.  Ragweed is one of the most valuable winter foods for all ground feeding birds.


Common Ragweed


Ambrosia artemisiifolia








12 to 40 inches


Late August to October


Throughout the United States ~ Statewide in New Jersey ~ Weed


Mid July to October


Branched ~ Head numerous ~ Leaves opposite below and alternate above, oval or elliptic ~ Flower beaked, erect spines above or near middle, small, green ~ Taproot