I have some mysterious, herb-like plant growing in my backyard. Any idea what it is? The closest match I can find is Italian parsley, but the leaf shape is wrong.

I tried crushing one leaf and smelling it. It has a distinct, sweetish smell, but I can't identify it.


Some background: my backyard is (literally) a dandelion/weed jungle. The breakdown is approximately:

  • 80% dandelions
  • 15% bull thistle
  • 5% other (including clover)

I haven't tended to it in a while. I noticed this growing in a pretty full-sun area. I don't know how old it is.

Also present in the picture are two decapitated dandelion stems (the hollow ones), and some other weed thing that reminds me of wheat. (Brownie points if you know what that is.)

If it matters, I'm in a hardiness zone 5(a), and my soil composition is heavy clay.

I ended up mowing this down with a lawn-mower (along with the rest of the dandelions in my dandelion jungle), so this mystery will remain unsolved.

I wish I had taken Bamboo's suggestion and just uprooted+potted it first.

  • 1
    And don't be bummed with your clay soil! I miss mine after dealing with sand/pumice...lots of DECOMPOSED organic matter and use raised beds for any plantings. It is the ONLY way to improve soil. I have to water every day and I'm going through a lot of purchased compost AND fertilizer. Raised beds are easy in clay, keep their shape and height. This sandy soil is very disappointing!
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 1:56

5 Answers 5


Boy, I've spent hours on this, grin! I am going to guess Ranunculus...leaves are so very similar! This is good for me. I used to know these families so well and this is helping me to remember. What do the roots look like? Is it growing in wet, boggy soil?

  • Alas, it's now a shredded pile of leaves mixed with grass mulch. Thanks for the effort though.
    – ashes999
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 1:43
  • No problem at all! It could've been a pretty invasive buttercup anyway...
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 1:51

Looks remarkably like Feverfew - Tanacetum parthenium in particular. A medicinal rather than a culinary herb.

  • It does resemble it. How do I tell, other than waiting for flowers?
    – ashes999
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 15:51
  • Well I could tell you to bruise and smell it, but the trouble is, everyone's sense of smell isn't the same - I don't like the smell much, bit like chrysanthemums to me. It should flower within the next four weeks anyway, its quite attractive to look at and attractive to bees.
    – Bamboo
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 16:46
  • The leaves look too round to be feverfew, and it definitely has a sweet smell. I'm doubtful, but I'll see. I may have to mow it down, unfortunately.
    – ashes999
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 16:49
  • I prefer the yellow leaved, double flowered version myself - I use it quite a lot when planting gardens. The leaves do look exactly like these... but if you're really curious, dig it up and pot it, see what it produces
    – Bamboo
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 16:50

Clearly “Mugwort” - Artemisia vulgaris. The photo appears to be taken in mid-spring.

A very common and very useful medicinal herb once planted near every kitchen door in Northern countries and used primarily for brewing beer and ale.

There are many more uses, but the questioner didn’t ask that.

Artemesia vulgaris emerging in late winter, N. America

Noting the questioner resides in Canada in a 5a zone, has an unkempt garden in clay soil, all perfect conditions for A. vulgaris which is naturalized in this region. A. argyi, also called Chinese Mugwort does not normally grow in Canada and prefers dry, upland slopes.

A. vulgaris 11 Mar 2018, NYC, USA

The simplest test is to turn the leaf over, A. vulgaris has a distinctive silvery-white bottom.


I believe it's Artemisia argyi. It's a great plant!

  • Could very well be Chinese Mugwort too, good call.
    – herb guy
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 4:19
  • can you add some more detail about why you think it is this plant?
    – kevinskio
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 12:45

Looks like angelica,botanical name Angelica archanegelica, which does have sweetly fragrant leaves.

  • it could be cow parsnip if it makes the skin feel like it's burning Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 4:02
  • It's not angelica, unfortunately - the leaves of angelica are not rounded at the tip.
    – Jurp
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 12:54

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