Origin: Unknown (see below)
Improvement status: Wild
Seeds per packet: ~30
BOTANICAL SAMPLE - NOT GERMINATION TESTED
Life cycle: Annual or Perennial
When EFN co-founder Nate Kleinman first received these seeds from the USDA, they were supposed to be an entirely different species (Honckenya peploides, if you're interested). He recognized early on that these were clearly not what they were supposed to be, but he had no clue what they were. As the plants matured, he noticed the leaves had a distinct and strong passionfruit scent, and with the help of Google Lens (a wonder of modern technology if there ever was one), he was able to identify the species even before they started flowering. But the flowers confirmed it: sweetscent, also known as marsh fleabane, or Pluchea odorata in Latin.
The USDA's collection includes 15 different accessions, from New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada, and Texas, so we have no idea where this one is from, but it's likely one of those states.
Sweetscent is an annual or perennial herb that can reach three feet or more. Its leaves are covered in rough trichomes that are strongly aromatic (another of its names is "shrubby camphorweed"). Native to the US, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America, its natural habitats include wetlands and other coastal habitats, along with relatively moist inland areas. It is tolerant of saline soils. It flowers in late summer or fall, and the blossoms come in clusters and are fuzzy and pink. Its uses are well-described on its Wikipedia page:
"In some parts of the Caribbean, saltmarsh fleabane is a widely consumed medicinal herbal tea. The hot tea made from the leaves is a stimulant. It stimulates perspiration, in the manner of pleurisy root or pennyroyal, and is diuretic. It is a safe and reliable menstrual stimulant when flow begins late, is scanty, and there are clotty cramps. Moreover, it is antispasmodic, thus relieving cramping. It similarly inhibits spasms and cramps from diarrhea and stomach ache. Used as an eyewash it reduces redness and pain from hay fever, wind and dust. Tea concentrate has been marketed as a coffee substitute. Unlike coffee which is a vasoconstrictor, sweetscent tea is a vasodilator. It is contraindicated for people who get migraines, during pregnancy, and should be used in moderation."
Nate had never heard of this plant before it serendipitously fell into his lap — but now he expects to have it around for a good long time! All season one of his first stops with guests at the farm was the mystery plant with the strange passionfruit scent! (Apparently, some varieties have an unpleasant odor, leading some to call it "stinkweed," but this one has a really lovely smell. Many glandular plants with trichomes on their leaves have broad diversity across the species — think cannabis — so this is not a huge surprise. We're just glad we got one that smells so fine!)
GROWING TIPS: It's unlikely to perennialize in regions colder than Zone 8, but it may. Prefers moist to wet, moderately well-drained to periodically inundated sandy, calcareous, or organic soil. Grow in full sun. Should grow easily from seed without any special treatment. Surface sow or lightly cover with growing medium. Suggested as a naturalistic landscape plant or for habitat restoration. May naturalize.
NOTE: Due to limited supply, these seeds have not been germination tested with a test that meets legal standards, so we are selling them as botanical samples.