Tarragon Identification – Artemisia dracunculus

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This post is part of our “100 Plants and Mushrooms” series. Here, you’ll see the plant’s main parts – its leaves, flowers, fruits, and more – all with key identification features.

Tarragon’s scientific name is Artemisia dracunculus. If you’re a fan of mythology, you might find the name “Artemisia” familiar. It links back to Artemis, the ancient Greek goddess of wild animals, the hunt, and vegetation. However, this plant isn’t just hiding behind its fancy name. You might hear it called by different names. In some parts, it’s known as “dragon herb”. Tarragon thrives in sunny spots and tends to grow tall, often between 2 to 4 feet.

Tarragon: Key Parts in Photos

How to identify Tarragon

If you’re on the lookout for Tarragon, you might want to start by focusing on its flowers. Clustered in what botanists call ‘panicles’ (think of a bunch of grapes and how they hang; that’s close to what a panicle looks like), these flowers are greenish-yellow. They hang downward on short stalks. Each flower head, which looks semi-spherical and is about 1/8 inch across, may seem tiny and indistinct.

The leaves and stems of Tarragon can tell you a lot. The leaves grow one after the other on opposite sides of the stem. If you pluck one, you’ll find it’s simple in shape and can be divided into lobes. These leaves are thin and straight. As the plant matures and gets ready to flower, the lower leaves tend to fall off. On touch, you might find some leaves having short fine hairs, while others are smooth. From the base, several stems sprout and branch out. The lower part of the stem becomes stiffer and woodier as the plant ages. In contrast, the upper branches stay thin, giving Tarragon an almost ‘wispy’ appearance.

What makes Tarragon special is its smell. Crush its young leaves, and you’re met with a sweet, pungent odor. If that smell reminds you of a certain cooking herb. Tarragon is widely used in cooking for its distinct aroma and flavor.

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