Camomile has a long history as a calming herb with inherent properties for soothing a variety of maladies and calming a restless spirit. Identifying camomile can be challenging because there are two different varieties: English camomile is a perennial herb, while German camomile is an annual herb. Both varieties grow naturally and often grow invasively along country roads, as well as in herb gardens. You can easily identify camomile by its foliage, blossoms and the scent of the plant.
Examine the foliage of the camomile plants. German camomile leaves appear very thin and feathery and the stems are somewhat hairy. The leaves are "bipinnate" leaves, which means that each leaf divides again into smaller leaf sections. German camomile plants grow to heights of approximately 20 inches. English camomile leaves are larger and thicker than German camomile leaves, without the same bipinnate style, and the stems are hairless. English camomile plants are shorter and wider than German camomile plants.
Look at the blossoms of the camomile plants. German camomile plants have tiny flowers approximately one inch in diameter. The center of the flowers is yellow, while the petals are white, resembling a daisy. English camomile flowers are approximately the same overall size as German camomile flowers. However, the centers are larger and the petals that surround the blossom are sparse and sometimes even absent. Some varieties of English camomile do not flower at all.
Pick a blossom to differentiate between English and German camomile plants. Cut the flower receptacle, the portion of the blossom that connects the bloom to the flower stalk, in half. If the receptacle has a solid interior, the camomile plant is English. If the receptacle has a hollow interior, the camomile plant is German.
Clip a small amount of foliage or blossoms from a camomile plant and gently crush the plant parts between your fingers. Smell the scent that wafts up from the crushed foliage. If it smells faintly fruity, like apples or pineapples, you likely have a camomile plant in your hands.
- Photo Credit Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) image by Lars Lachmann from Fotolia.com