The genus Gnaphalium Linnaeus
and Gnaphalium uliginosum Linnaeus
The words or terms in red
(actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a
The genus Gnaphalium Linnaeus
Gnaphalium is a large widely distributed
of coarse hairy herbs with whitish
Plants of the Gnaphalium genus are usually
annuals. Their stems are more or less
Their leaves are mostly cauline and
Their leave margins are
Their flower heads are disciform
with from 50 to close to 100 florets.
Their peripheral florets are pistillate and
about 10 times more numerous
that their inner bisexual florets.
Their phyllaries are in 2 to 5 series,
they are widely spreading in fruit, are
scarious or with a herbaceous base and
midrib. Their fruit is a
cypsela with a readily falling
pappus with about 10
distinct, barbellate bristles.
The number of chromosomes of the genus
(x) is 7.
There are about 38 species in the genus,
3 of which are found in North America and only one, Gnaphalium
uliginosum, described below and pictured above, is found in Québec.
Species belonging to the genus are also found in Mexico, Central America,
South America, Asia, Africa and Australia.
have reduced the Gnaphalium from hundreds of
species to about 40. Species formerly belonging to the genus
have now been segregated to the Euchiton, Gamochaeta, Omalotheca,
Species of Gnaphalium in the strict sense are usually 3 to 30 cm tall,
loosely tomentose and not glandular.
and have loosely glomerulate flower heads;
their involucres are 2 to 3 mm
in diameter; they have white-tipped inner
they have papillate cypselae,
with readily falling pappi
of distinct bristles, features especially contrasting with those of the
Pseudognaphalium genus, to which most North American species have been
transferred. Because of their relatively small stature and of their tendency to
produce loosely spiciform arrays of
flower heads, species of the Gnaphalium genus are sometimes identified as
belonging to the Gamochaeta genus; the species of the later however
have different cypselar covering
and different pappi.
Gnaphalium spp. have been used for centuries in Mexico chiefly as
expectorant and antitussive agents, although they purportedly have general
anti-inflammatory activity, especially for gastrointestinal complaints and
(externally) as a coadjuvant in reducing
hemorrhoids. Gnaphalium spp. have been used as a tobacco substitute
since they contains little or no nicotine or tars.
The genus belongs to the
Gnaphalium uliginosum Linnaeus
Gnaphalium uliginosum is a small and rather inconspicuous plant of paths,
sandy fields and bare ground on acid soils. The flowers are tiny and arranged
in small, rather inconspicuous heads. It is interesting to recall that this
a bit dull-looking plant is related to the famous Edelweiss
(Leontopodium alpinum) of the European mountains!
The plant is native to Eurasia but has
been introduced in North America and other
parts of the world and is now widely
(gnaphalion) is a plant
described by Pedanius Dioscorides, (3,132), the Greek physician,
pharmacologist and botanist from Anazarbus (Cilicia, Asia Minor) who practised
in ancient Rome during the time of Nero. He wrote one of the most influential
herbal books in history, Materia medica, a book that remained in use
until the Renaissance. The French name of the plant is cotonnière. a
cottony plant; it is a plant that was used to fill up mattresses.
The genus name refers to the white tomentum
covering the plant.
In Latin, uliginosus means damp, marshy, wet,
a well chosen epithet since
Gnaphalium uliginosum grows in wet areas.
Some of the vernacular names of
Gnaphalium uliginosum are
Marsh Cudweed, Low Cudweed, Lowland Cudweed, Western Marsh cudweed,
The French vernacular name is Gnaphale des vases.
Gnaphalium uliginosum has also been known as:
- Dasyanthus uliginosus (L.) Bubani
- Filaginella nuda (Hoffm. ex J. F. Gmel.) Opiz
- Filaginella rossica (Kirp.) Tzvelev
- Filaginella uliginosa (L.) Opiz
- Filaginella uliginosa (L.) Opiz subsp. rossica
- Gnaphalium aquaticum Mill.
- Gnaphalium laevissimum Schur
- Gnaphalium nudum Hoffm. ex J. F. Gmel.
- Gnaphalium pilulare Wahlenb.
- Gnaphalium ramosum Lam.
- Gnaphalium tomentosum Hoffm.
- Gnaphalium uliginosum L. subsp. pilulare (Wahlenb.) Nyman
- Gnaphalium uliginosum L. subsp. nudum (Hoffm.) Nyman
- Gnaphalium uliginosum L. var. lasiocarpum Schur
- Gnaphalium uliginosum L. var. muricatum Cariot
- Gnaphalium uliginosum L. var. nudum (Hoffm.) Lej.
- Gnaphalium uliginosum L. var. pilulare
(Wahlenb.) W. D. J. Koch
- Gnaphalium uliginosum L. var. tomentosum Beck
- Gnaphalium rossicum Kirp.
- Helichrysum uliginosum (L.) Moench
Gnaphalium uliginosum is identified easily by its:
- low, much-branched stature with narrow leaves;
- silvery-gray appearance;
- small, crowded brownish-green to straw-coloured flower heads surrounded
by thin, papery involucral bracts.
Gnaphalium uliginosum is from 5 to 20 cm tall,
with short roots (5 to 18 cm long).
- Much-branched from the base.
- 5 to 25 cm (2 to 10 inches) high.
- Densely fine-hairy to woolly.
- Numerous and alternate.
- Appearing tufted near the tips of branches.
- Pointed, narrowed at base.
- Gray-green to silvery-gray.
- The upper ones generally much fewer than the lower ones.
- Very small, 3 to 4 mm long and 3 to 3.5 mm wide.
- Crowded in small clusters near the ends of the branches
and in the axils of the leaves.
- Whitish to light brownish-green to straw-coloured.
- Without ray florets.
- With the marginal disk florets
- With the inner disk florets
- With tiny, thin, papery, tan or light brownish
- Blooming from August to September in my area,
25 km north of Montréal.
Gnaphalium uliginosum produces 100 to 500 seeds per plant with a
weight of 1000 seeds is 0.007 g. The seeds sprout well in damp ground during
summer, and their germinating capacity is maintained for about 5 years.
- An achene with a
deciduous white hairs.
- With greenish-gray or light brown
- About 0.5 mm long and 0.15 to 0.2 mm wide.
- Slightly flattened.
Gnaphalium uliginosum occurs in low, moist, or poorly drained situations
and in acid soils; it is found in meadows, pastures, depressions in cultivated
fields, in streams, valleys and roadside ditches, in disturbed sites.
It often forms dense patches in depressions in grainfields where it can
tolerate poorly drained conditions better than most cultivated plants.
Gnaphalium uliginosum is native
to temperate Asia, it is found in Lebanon, Turkey, in Siberia, in Kazakhstan,
in Mongolia, China and Japan. It is also native to Europe and is found in most
countries, from Spain to Iceland, and from France to Russia.
The plant is widely naturalized elsewhere.
The maps on the left shows the Canadian provinces and USA states where the plant
can be found.
The maps on the right shows the worldwide distribution of the plant.
Gnaphalium uliginosum has traditionally been used in many herbal
remedies, as an
a decongestant and a hypotensive.
It is used both internally and externally in the treatment of laryngitis,
upper respiratory catarrh and tonsillitis, whilst in Russia it is used in the
treatment of high blood pressure.
The plant is harvested when it is in flower and is dried for later use.
The plant parts used in herbal preparations are the aerial parts.
Gnaphalium uliginosum is however little used in modern
It is a weed of grain crops, mainly of winter cereals.
The photos of the gallery were taken either with one of the following:
Minolta DiMAGE 7,
Canon PowerShot A530,
Canon Xt Rebel, usually with the EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM objective,
Fujifilm A 610 and
EPSON Perfection 1650 (scanner).
The title in the window shows the date when the picture was taken,
i.e. jan_30_06... would mean that the photo was taken on the 30th of
January, the 06 is for the 6th picture taken that day.
The month, day and picture number might be followed by a letter which I use
to identify the system used to take the picture.
Click on the thumbnails to get larger view.
The original photos are usually in TIFF format,
the photos shown are generally in JPEG format,
often of dimensions one half (surface one quarter)
for loading time reduction.
The leaves were scanned at 300 dpi;
this allows to measure the dimensions of the leaves.