Chamomile has a long history as a calming herb with inherent properties for soothing a variety of maladies and calming a restless spirit. Identifying chamomile can be challenging because there are two different varieties: English chamomile is a perennial herb, while German chamomile 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 chamomile by its foliage, blossoms and the scent of the plant.
Examine the foliage of the chamomile plants. German chamomile 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 chamomile plants grow to heights of approximately 20 inches. English chamomile leaves are larger and thicker than German chamomile leaves, without the same bipinnate style, and the stems are hairless. English chamomile plants are shorter and wider than German chamomile plants.
Look at the blossoms of the chamomile plants. German chamomile plants have tiny flowers approximately one inch in diameter. The centre of the flowers is yellow, while the petals are white, resembling a daisy. English chamomile flowers are approximately the same overall size as German chamomile flowers. However, the centres are larger and the petals that surround the blossom are sparse and sometimes even absent. Some varieties of English chamomile do not flower at all.
Pick a blossom to differentiate between English and German chamomile 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 chamomile plant is English. If the receptacle has a hollow interior, the chamomile plant is German.
Clip a small amount of foliage or blossoms from a chamomile 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 chamomile plant in your hands.