Artemisia arctica is a morphologically variable, tufted perennial herb in the aster family (Asteraceae) found in tundra, meadows, rocky slopes, peaty places and shrub tundra across Denali. One to several erect stems grow from a stout woody caudex to 10-40 cm in height. Leaves are mostly basal, and bipinnately divided, consisting of 5-7 pairs of narrow leaflets. Leaves and stems are most often (but not always) glabrous. Flower heads are typically nodding and the inflorescence is spike-like in arrangement. The involucralbracts are ovate-lanceolate to elliptical with scarious dark margins. Disk flowers are yellow, often with a reddish tinge. Fruits are achenes. Unlike other Artemisia species, A. arctica is not aromatic.
Artemisia arctica typically flowers in mid to late summer.
Artemisia arctica is monoecious, with bisexual florets, and generally thought to be wind pollinated. The small seeds have a papery seed coat which aids wind dispersal.
Wormwood is a medicinally important plant throughout the range of the genus, though it is also poisonous and is mostly used in external applications. Artemisia is also prepared in a wash or blended into a salve for skin abrasions and other problems, as a bath for feet, sore muscles, eye problems, and varicose veins. It has also been consumed as tea in treatments for cancer and diabetes.
Artemisia arctica is an amphi-Beringian species with an arctic-alpine distribution that occurs across Alaska and the Yukon territory; spreads eastward to Northwest Territory, south to British Columbia and Alberta and westward across Eurasia. Disjunct populations occur southwards to the Pacific Northwest, California, and the Rocky Mountains. In Denali, this species is common and occurs widely the hills and mountains across the Park.
Although considered an alpine species, Artemisia arctica grows in a wide range of elevations and slopes in Denali National Park; from 187 m to almost 1800 m in elevation and on flat ground to 45 degree slopes. On average A. arctica is found at 1059 m and a 17 degree slope; the greatest percent cover is seen above 1100 m. A. arctica slightly preferred south facing slope to north aspects, but did not show distinct preferences off-180 degrees.