The genus Matricaria Linnaeus

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

jul_02_06.gthmb can't be loaded. Plants of the Matricaria genus are annuals pleasantly aromatic. They have cauline and basal leaves, the later soon withering. The leaves are bipinnate or tripinnate with numerous linear, narrowly lobed leaflets. They have persistent phyllaries in two or more series. Their greenish-yellow capitula have none to few ray florets but many disk florets. Their fruits are cypselae without a pappus. Their number of chromosomes (n) is 9.

They grow along roadsides in ruderal communities and in fallow land rich in nutrients. Though many are considered nuisance weeds, they are suitable for rock gardens and herb gardens, and as border plants. They are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species.

There are 7 species in the genus, that are found in North America and Eurasia where it is very common in the temperate region; they are found as well as in northern and southern Africa; some species are widespread weeds in the southern hemisphere, some are naturalised in Australia. Three species are found in North America, and only two in Québec:

The taxonomy of the Matricaria genus is still (2007) somewhat controversial and confused. Several species are classified either in the Tripleurospermum or Matricaria genus depending on the interpretation of the author, the distinction being made according to the number of the seed ribs: seeds of the Tripleurospermum have one adaxial and two lateral ribs, while the seeds of the Matricaria have four or five adaxial seed ribs.

The genus belongs to the Asteraceae family.


In Latin, one of the meanings of matrix is the womb; the name Matricaria was given to the genus because Matricaria recutita (the chamomile) was widely used to treat such gynecologic complaints as menstrual cramps and sleep disorders related to premenstrual syndrome. Matricaria recutita has been found to contain fairly strong antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory constituents and is particularly effective in treating stomach and intestinal cramps.

Common names

Some of the vernacular names of species in the Matricaria genus are Mayweed, Chamomile, Matricary and, in French, Matricaire, Chamomille. The Mayweed name also refers to plants not in this genus.


The extract of German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is taken as a strong tea. It has been used in herbal medicine as a carminative and anti-inflammatory. It is also used in ointments and lotions, and as a mouthwash against infections of mouth and gums. Aromatherapy uses two essential oils of chamomile: the true chamomile oil (from Matricaria recutita) and the Roman chamomile oil (from Chamaemelum nobile formerly known as Anthemis nobilis).