This Saturday, June 21st, is the fourth annual International Ragweed Day. For those who are allergic to ragweed pollen, the various varieties of ragweed (Ambrosia ssp.) can be a real bane of life. When someone you care about is swollen up like an itchy tomato and popping antihistamines and decongestants just to get out of bed in the morning, you might be tempted to want to eradicate the plant entirely. But is it all bad?
From an ecological perspective, and particularly in the Americas where it is native, we must first think of ragweed’s significance as a food for wildlife — notably quail, but also including some now-rare butterflies and moths. However, for those of us living in cities and towns where these creatures rarely venture anyway, any value to hypothetical wildlife is moot. Some herbalists may be inclined to follow up on ethnobotanical evidence that the Cherokee used ragweed to cure insect bites and pneumonia.