Ontario Weeds: Common ragweed
Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds,
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Table of Contents
- Other Names
- General Description
- Stems and Roots
- Flowers and Fruit
- Similar Species
- Related Links
Name: Common ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia
Other Names: petite herbe à poux, Short ragweed, ambrosie a feuilles d'armoise
Family: Composite or Aster Family (Compositae)
General Description: Annual, reproducing only by seed.
Common ragweed (A - plant beginning to flower; B - spikes of male flower heads ready to release pollen).
Common ragweed. A. Seedling, top and side views. B. Portion of stem with 2 leaves. C. End of flowering branch. D. 1-sided "raceme" with 7 heads, each with 1 female flower.
Stems & Roots: Stems erect, 15-150cm
(6-60in.) high, usually much-branched, hairless or hairy throughout;
lower leaves opposite (2 per node) but becoming alternate (1 per
node) higher on the plant, bright green to slightly yellowish-green
on young plants, becoming grayish-green on older plants, compound
and finely divided, the final divisions usually coarsely toothed.
Flowers & Fruit: Flower heads not showy, individually small, 2-5mm (1/12-1/5in.) across, green and inconspicuous but very numerous and forming distinctive inflorescences; individual florets either male or female, but never both; all flowers within one flower head either only male or female, but both male flower heads and female flower heads usually present on the same plant; heads of male (pollen-producing) flowers in raceme-like elongated clusters at ends of branches, each male head hanging downwards on a short stalk like a tiny inverted umbrella; female (seed-producing) flower heads in axils of short, narrow, green bracts near the base of each long cluster of male flower heads, each female head with only a single flower and producing a single, hard, somewhat triangular or diamond-shaped seed with several, short, sharp spines around the upper shoulder, the whole seed 3-5mm (1/8-1/5in.) long. Flowers from August to October.
Habitat: Common ragweed is one of the most abundant weeds of cultivated land throughout southern Ontario, but is rare or absent in northern and northwestern parts of the province. It also occurs in gardens, flower borders, poorly kept lawns, edges of sidewalks, roadsides, fencelines, waste places, and in disturbed areas in pastures and meadows.
Similar Species: It is distinguished by its finely divided leaves, which are opposite in the lower part and alternate in the upper part of the plant, these being yellow-green at first, later gray-green with age, and its very numerous, tiny, non-showy, greenish male flower heads clustered along slender branches in the upper part of the plant.
It is essential that Goldenrod, Solidago spp., [verge d'or, solidage], not be confused with Common ragweed. Several species of Goldenrod occur throughout Ontario in meadows, pastures, woodland, river flats and roadsides, and have very conspicuous bright yellow inflorescences during the ragweed hayfever season of late summer and autumn. Goldenrods do produce pollen but only in small quantities, and their pollen is heavy and sticky. It is not carried on the wind and the plants are pollinated by insects. Because Goldenrod pollen is not carried on the wind, it must not be blamed as the source of irritation for ragweed hay fever sufferers.
Caution: Common ragweed is the most important cause of hay fever during August and September. Although inconspicuous and not recognized by most people, the tiny male flower beads hanging on their slender stalks produce huge quantities of very light pollen. As the pollen falls from these hanging flowers, it is caught by the wind and may be carried for distances greater than 200 km (125 miles). Hay fever sufferers, therefore, may be affected by pollen from ragweed plants far away.
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