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  • Writer's pictureOrion Aon

Pineappleweed: Wild Chamomile with a Pineapple Twist!

Reading about this might unlock a core memory from your childhood. When I teach this plant to people in classes or through videos, one of the most common responses is, "I used to smell that plant all the time as a kid!" or "I'm glad it's safe because I ate it when I was young." Regardless of your past with pineappleweed, it's a plant worth knowing about and foraging!


A handful of pineappleweed stems, leaves, and flowers.
A handful of pineappleweed stems, leaves, and flowers.

Description


Pineappleweed, Matricaria discoidea, is a low-growing annual in the aster family, rarely growing over a foot in height. It has small, divided, feathery-looking leaves very similar to those of its other chamomile relatives. These leaves emerge from thicker stems that are either green or sometimes reddish.


Pineappleweed has feathery divided leaves.
Pineappleweed has feathery divided leaves.

The flowers are unique because they lack ray florets (the outer flower petals) and only have a densely pack cluster of disc florets (the inner petals). All parts of the plant smell strongly of chamomile and pineapple when crushed. Some detect other fruity notes as well, such as strawberry or apple.


The flowers of pineappleweed.
Pineappleweed flowers lack ray florets (outer petals).

Range & Habitats


Pineappleweed is native to North America, though its native range is debated. It has been spread and naturalized throughout most of the northern hemisphere. It has also been documented in South America, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Pineappleweed tends to exhibit weedy tendencies, growing in areas of disturbance and poor soils. It is common in yards and gardens and can also regularly be found on the edges of trails, sidewalks, and driveways (usually not great foraging locations). In Colorado, I see pineappleweed growing in lower-elevation urban areas. Often along sidewalks or medians. They also grow in the mountains through the late spring and early summer. I often see them in disturbance sites in these areas, such as trailheads, forest roads, logged sites, and burn scars.


Pineappleweed growing along the edge of a driveway.
Pineappleweed grows in areas of disturbance such as driveways, along sidewalks, and in yards.

Potential Look-alikes


The information in the description above should be enough to identify pineappleweed properly. However, look-alike information is regularly requested, so here are some possible species that could be confused with pineappleweed. This list is not comprehensive and may not be relevant to your region. Remember only to eat wild foods once you're 100% confident in your identification and comfortable with trying something new.


  • Mayweed, Anthemis cotula, could be confused with pineapple weed before flowering, but it smells strongly unpleasant, and its flowers have ray florets. This plant is toxic to animals.

  • Other species of chamomile, Matricaria spp., which will have ray florets and smell less fruity. Similarly edible.


German chamomile, Matricaria chamomilla.
German chamomile, Matricaria chamomilla. Has white ray florets and lacks a strong fruity smell.
 

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Pineappleweed: Edibility & Harvesting


Pineappleweed is a relative of chamomile and is great for any application that calls for chamomile. The leaves and flowers are most commonly used for teas and other infusions, but they can also be eaten raw or used as an herb to add some herbal, fruity notes to any dish! To eat pineappleweed raw or cooked, you will want to harvest only the tender portions of the plant. Any clean portion can be used for infusions.


Chopped pineappleweed ready to infuse into vodka and syrup.
Chopped pineappleweed ready to infuse into vodka and syrup.

One of my favorite ways to use pineappleweed is for liqueur. The herbal, fruity flavor can readily infuse syrup and alcohol, which can be combined into a delicious liqueur. Ellen Zachos of Backyard Forager is my go-to source for all things wild cocktails, and her recipe for Pineapple Weed Liqueur is awesome!


A jar of pineappleweed and vodka.
Pineappleweed infusing into vodka for liqueur.

Foraging Calendar


To learn more about the best seasons to harvest this species and many other wild foods, check out my Foraging Calendar & Wild Food Database! You can try the demo version to learn more, and join my Patreon to gain full access to the Foraging Calendar and other exclusive perks! Joining is the best way to support all the work I put into my content and website to help you learn about foraging! Thank you for checking it out!


A screenshot of my Foraging Calendar.


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