Ground Ivy is an aggressive perennial weed


When gardeners talk about weeds the word vine usually makes them cringe. Their anxiety increases when the word mint is added to the conversation. Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) is guilty on both counts.

Sometimes called creeping Charlie, this perennial can be an aggressive adversary in your lawn and gardens. It looks a little like catnip or Swedish ivy when you first see it.

Round leaves with scalloped edges emerge from square stems in groups of two. Running stems root at each pair of leaves and new plants begin to form. Eventually dense mats develop. If left alone it can totally take over anything in its path.

Purple two-lipped mint flowers would be quite attractive if the plant would only stay put. It won’t. The darned thing runs all over the place. I would rate it almost as difficult to control as wild violets or Florida betony.

Like many mints, ground ivy loves cool weather. That’s one reason it’s a problem in warm season turf in eastern North Carolina. In the fall many of our lawn grasses begin to go dormant, while ground ivy starts ramping up. Spreading by seed and creeping stems also makes it a double threat.

Ground ivy is also quite adaptable. It’s common throughout nearly all of North America. Only parts of northern Canada and a couple southwestern states are free from it.

This ubiquitous mint thrives in moist locations and creeps into lawns and gardens from wooded areas. It’s very tolerant of shade. Once established, ground ivy handles drought pretty well too.

While I respect this weed I’m not intimidated by it. It’s edible. In fact it’s not too bad raw in a salad or as a cooked green. Don’t boil or steam them too long or they’ll be mushy. Steeped leaves make a decent tea as well. Plants are high in vitamin C, but extended cooking will destroy it.

As with most greens, plants become bitter as they mature. Once they flower, the bitterness increases dramatically. Usually the supply is not limiting, so finding young growth is easy.

Herbalists have found numerous uses for this aggressive invader too. Its tea is used for coughs and bronchitis. Several anti-inflammatory chemicals are present in the foliage, so it’s sometimes used for arthritis. I’ve even read where it has been prescribed for ringing in the ears, stomach problems, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, bladder infections and kidney stones. Several commercial preparations can be purchased in health food stores.

Numerous side-effects are listed for this herb. It you are pregnant or have epilepsy, liver or kidney problems don’t consume it. As with all herbal supplements or medicines, always consult your medical professional before consuming any.

On another note, if you simply wish to rid ground ivy from your property several herbicides might help. Round-up (glyphosate) is effective for spot treatment applications. Mild weather is helpful, since it must be actively growing for herbicides to be effective. Round-up  is probably not the best choice in your lawn unless your warm season turf is totally dormant and the weed is still actively growing.

Broad leaf weed killers like 2,4-D and dicamba are effective in lawns but they will kill your flowers. The herbicide ‘confront’ is effective on sod farms, but it’s highly toxic and not labeled for residential turf. As with Florida betony and violets there appears to be no easy solution.

Ground ivy forms thick mats

Ground ivy forms thick mats

It quickly covers up anything.

It quickly covers up anything.

Close-up showing scalloped leaf margins

Close-up showing scalloped leaf margins

 

Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School (tmanzer@ecpps.k12.nc.us).

Advertisements

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I now teach agriculture to high school students at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, NC. My wife teaches with me and we make a great team. I also write a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper (dailyadvance.com) and frequently publish articles in several other newspapers in northeastern North Carolina. I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that I plan to publish eventually. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone, a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. Never Alone is now available in paperback, Kindle and Nook. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death. In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books.
This entry was posted in foraging and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s