The genus Gnaphalium Linnaeus and Gnaphalium uliginosum Linnaeus

Remark The words or terms in red (actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a glossary.

The genus Gnaphalium Linnaeus

aug_17_05.gthmb can't be loaded. Gnaphalium is a large widely distributed genus of coarse hairy herbs with whitish involucres. Plants of the Gnaphalium genus are usually annuals. Their stems are more or less woolly-tomentose. Their leaves are mostly cauline and alternate. Their leave margins are entire. 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.

Generic segregations 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, and Pseudognaphalium genera. 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 phyllaries, 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 Asteraceae family.

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 naturalized.


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In Greek, γναφαλιον (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.

Common names

Some of the vernacular names of Gnaphalium uliginosum are Marsh Cudweed, Low Cudweed, Lowland Cudweed, Western Marsh cudweed, and Mouse-ear. The French vernacular name is Gnaphale des vases.


Gnaphalium uliginosum has also been known as: draw_02.jpg can't be loaded.


Gnaphalium uliginosum is identified easily by its:


Gnaphalium uliginosum is from 5 to 20 cm tall, with short roots (5 to 18 cm long).



Flower heads


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.


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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.

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Gnaphalium uliginosum has traditionally been used in many herbal remedies, as an astringent, antiseptic, 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 herbalism. 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.


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Flower heads

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