Common or short ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) is an annual herb belonging to the Asteraceae family that was described by Carl Linnaeus in the 18th century. It is a noxious invasive species that is an important weed in agriculture and a source of highly allergenic pollen. The importance placed on A. artemisiifolia is reflected by the number of international projects that have now been launched by the European Commission and the increasing number of publications being produced on this topic. This review paper examines existing knowledge about ragweed ecology, distribution and flowering phenology and the environmental health risk that this noxious plant poses in Europe. The paper also examines control measures used in the fight against it and state of the art methods for modelling atmospheric concentrations of this important aeroallergen. Common ragweed is an environmental health threat, not only in its native North America but also in many parts of the world where it has been introduced. In Europe, where the plant has now become naturalised and frequently forms part of the flora, the threat posed by ragweed has been identified and steps are being taken to reduce further geographical expansion and limit increases in population densities of the plant in order to protect the allergic population. This is particularly important when one considers possible range shifts, changes in flowering phenology and increases in the amount of pollen and allergenic potency that could be brought about by changes in climate.
Keywords: Aeroallergen; Aerobiology; Integrated weed management; Invasive alien species; Species distribution.