Is creeping charlie poisonous?

Potential Medical Benefits of Aggressively Invasive Weeds like Creeping Charlie

Q. Hi Mike! I have a question for one of your regular guests Dr. James Duke. I have tons of Ground Ivy (aka Gill over the Ground, creeping Charlie, lawn ivy, etc.) and was thinking about getting rid of it with the Borax formula you provided in a previous Question of the Week. However, “Peterson’s Guide to Edible Wild Plants” and the book “Wild Medicinal Plants” by Anny Schneider both say Ground Ivy makes a fine herbal tea, with Schneider’s book recommending you collect the leaves in spring just as the plant begins to flower and combine them with Lemon Verbena. Dr. Duke’s classic book “The Green Pharmacy” (Rodale; 1997) doesn’t include Ground Ivy (scientific name: Glechoma hederacea). Does the good doctor have an opinion of this plant? I believe you should always see if a weed has some use before eradicating it (i.e. dandelion). Given that I already enjoy teas made from many plants I thought why not, as long as it’s safe? Thank you,

    —Jim Watkins in East Taunton, Mass.

A. Thank YOU Jim, for the excuse to call one of my favorite people, Jim Duke, Ph. D., retired USDA botanist and author of many books about the medicinal possibilities of plants in addition to the bestseller you consulted. It turns out that he not only has an opinion, he recently began drinking Ground Ivy tea! Although still active and ornery, Jim is pushing 80, and has had some problems recently with parasthesia (numbness in the legs). Surprisingly, his regular MD doctor (who Jim calls “my allopath”) told him to consider the tea, as Ground Ivy has a folk reputation for helping people with lead poisoning, which can cause similar symptoms (as can Lyme’s disease and spinal problems).

“I’m sipping some now,” Jim told me, the leaves salvaged from a slightly frost nipped patch near his back door. “With a little lemon and stevia (a natural sweetener), its not bad at all”, he reports, adding that the tea “has a bit of astringency and a bit of bitter, both of which most Americans need more of, as these flavors have been bred out of the less robust tea constituents of today.” Jim adds that he especially likes that the tea is highly aromatic; a sign of compounds that have the potential to help human health

“There are an exceptional number of folk uses for this invasive weed,” adds Jim, “and naturally-occurring chemical rationales to support them; as there are for other invasives like Japanese knotweed and wild grape. Invasiveness is frequently a sign of medical potential,” notes Jim. “Plants can sometimes overwhelm illness the way they overwhelm their environment.”

The big uses Jim found for Ground Ivy (in addition to the previously mentioned antidote to lead poisoning) are as an anti-inflammatory (to relieve pain and swelling), and as a treatment for ulcers, lung problems like asthma, and a number of different cancers.

In addition, he recounts a virtual United Nations of folk uses over history: Argentineans pasting the leaves onto corns; Chinese using the herb to normalize menstruation; the Irish for skin ailments, flushing the kidneys, stimulating menstruation, and for blisters and sores. Italians have used the leaves for arthritis and rheumatism; Norwegians internally for chest pains, and externally for wounds. And Brits have applied the expressed juice to black eyes and bruises, snuffed the leaves or put the juice into their nostrils for headaches, and have had their children take the tea (boiled with nettles) for 9 successive days in spring to purify the blood and improve the complexion.

The literature says that the leaves are generally used to make teas (fresh or dried), and the young shoots and leaves are eaten cooked as ‘potherb’ or in soups. The typical amount is 2 to 4 grams of dry herb, cooked or in tea, 1 to 3 times a day.

The potential downsides? The plant has caused illness and even fatalities when grazing horses ate too much. And mice fed only the plant for 3 to 4 days died. Because the plant contains the essential oil pulegone, women who are pregnant or lactating should avoid it. And common sense requires that anything remotely approaching excessive use would be extremely unwise.

But Jim quickly adds that all plants contain both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ compounds, and if we avoided all plants containing anything negative, there would be nothing left for us to eat! He also notes that “prescription drugs that are ‘safe and approved’ come with pages of warnings and still contribute to the deaths of thousands of Americans every year. “I’ll use a prescription medication when I have to,” he explains, “but when I have a choice I always try Mother Nature’s prescription first.”

Still, we aren’t recommending this or any other wild plant; we’re simply pointing out its long history and possibilities.

Jim says that if you wish to give those possibilities a try, pour boiling water over the recommended amount of leaves, put a dish on top of the cup to trap those aromatic compounds, let it steep for a few minutes and flavor it with a bit of lemon and honey. Just try a first sips the first time and discontinue if you experience anything uncomfortable.

Of course, that’s a warning that applies to everything in life! As Jim notes, “anyone trying any new plant, food or medicine should proceed with caution. “Peterson’s Field Guide to Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs” by Foster and Duke (2000) recounts how one person reacted negatively: After steeping the herb in hot water for ten minutes, they drank the tea, and within five minutes experienced labored breathing, swelling of the throat, and difficulty sleeping. Symptoms abated in 24 hours”.

And a final word from the one and only Dr. Jim Duke: “If you’d like to know even more about the medicinal potential of this weed, or if you’d like to share a positive or negative personal experience with it, e-mail me and I will click you back a long report on ground ivy, just one of the 3,000 medicinal herbs for which I am tallying the evidence.”

  • —James A. ‘Jim’ Duke, Ph. D.,

Phytochemical Database

The Green Pharmacy Online

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THE EDIBLE OUTDOORS #6 – Creeping Charlie

Those who know Creeping Charlie have one of two opinions about it; they either love it, or they hate it. If this plant is edible, you may wonder why so many find it to be detestable. It’s the invasive nature of Creeping Charlie that makes some consider it to be a curse, rather than a blessing. Many people have been attempting to eradicate it from their properties for years, and many are still losing that battle. I’d recommend eating as much as they can, and then making the rest into tea. It’s a beneficial way to get rid of some anyway. Another common name for this plant is Ground Ivy, and the scientific name is Glechoma Hederacea.

As it turns out, Creeping Charlie isn’t even native to North America. It was brought to this continent by European settlers. It’s obviously naturalizes itself rather easily, and can be found all over the place these days. When I was first introduced to this plant last year, I was a little cautious. I kept running into “Charlie” all over the place. I’d think, “Could this really be him again?” Time after time, it was.

The leaf shape and sprawling runners should be the first clue. Since Creeping Charlie is a member of the Mint family, it will also have a square stem and a distinct smell. Once the smell has become familiar, there’s really no mistaking it. I’d have to describe it as earthy, yet spicy. The combination of these characteristics makes it easy to ensure accurate identification.

The plant can reproduce itself both from the runners re-rooting themselves and also from seed. The seeds come once the small purple flowers mature. What appear to be the flowers are actually little clusters made up of several tiny flowers.

Historically, Creeping Charlie has been used medicinally as well as for a food source. I’ve mostly eaten them raw or used them for tea, but the leaves can also be cooked. Any way you use it, it is a good source of Vitamin C. Finding some growing locally is a great way to increase the nutritional value of salads.

Another characteristic of members of the mint family is that they will root very easily, just by putting them in water. I’m testing Creeping Charlie right now, but I’m pretty sure, due to its invasive nature, that it will root very quickly. I’ll let you know.

Creeping Charlie is not indigenous, and maybe it’s even invasive. However, since it is here, I saw that we take note of it, and remember where we see it growing. If we ever get lost or find ourselves in a crisis situation, it could just provide the nutrition we need to pull through.

BONUS

As a bonus I’ve added these pictures of my oldest daughter with a butterfly yesterday, since I didn’t think that they warranted their own post.

This particular butterfly hung out around the garden for most of the afternoon. Another one of my daughters was able to pick it up just by placing her finger in front of it. They sure are beautiful creatures.

Finally, let’s not forget the proof-of-charlie.

For more information on wild edibles, check out the previous posts for THE EDIBLE OUTDOORS.

1-Common Yellow Wood Sorrel
2-Lamb’s Quarters
3-American Gooseberry
4-Stinging Nettle
5-Sassafras

Thanks – @papa-pepper

#nature #survivals #gardening #outdoors

Eating Ground Ivy: Is Creeping Charlie Edible

A bane to some gardeners, creeping Charlie can, indeed, infiltrate the landscape becoming impossible to eradicate. But what if eating creeping Charlie was an option? Would it be any more palatable in the landscape? Read on to find out if you can eat creeping Charlie.

Is Creeping Charlie Edible?

As a matter of fact, yes, creeping Charlie (also known as ground ivy) is edible. A prime and often cursed at weed of turfgrass and other landscape areas, creeping Charlie is native to Europe and southern Asia but was brought into North America for use medicinally. It rapidly naturalized and is now found everywhere in North America with the exception of the desert southwest and the coldest provinces of Canada.

Back in the day, however, folks were eating creeping Charlie as a cure-all for a variety of ills, from congestion to inflammation to tinnitus. Also, way back when, beer was a different animal. In the 16th century, hops were not available in England, but beer was and ground ivy was the flavoring as well as the preservative in beer production. In fact, one of its common names is ‘Alehoof,’ meaning ‘ale-herb,’ in reference to the time when ground ivy was used instead of hops.

Like its relative mint, this plant is difficult to control because it readily self-sows and easily roots from any leaf node on the stem. Because it grows so rampantly and is difficult to manage, let alone eradicate, it might be a good time to learn about eating ground ivy. Edible ground ivy does have a pungent, minty flavor that works well for use as an herb in some foods.

Aside from that, ground ivy is best used when the leaves are young and less pungent. It can be eaten fresh, although it’s a bit tangy. Leaves can be cooked just as you would spinach. The dried leaves can be used to make tea and are often combined with verbena or lovage and, of course, ground ivy apparently tastes great in beer.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using or ingesting ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes or otherwise, please consult a physician, medical herbalist or other suitable professional for advice.

Ground Ivy

Ground Ivy has scalloped leaves like Henbit and Dead Nettle

Most of the time when someone mentions Ground Ivy the comment usually is something like “How do I get rid of the damned stuff?” Here at ETW we have have the solution.

Ground Ivy Flower

Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea, is a creeping perennial that roots at the nodes and smells similar to mint when crushed or mowed. It’s a prime weed of turfgrass and landscapes. If you like well-behaved Engish type gardens then Ground Ivy will drive you insane because it may be small but it’s the Botanical Bull in the China Shop. It doesn’t take over, it takes command. While there are no look alikes — if you look closely enough — there are four species which from some distance might be mistaken for Ground Ivy. It is often misidentified as a Common Mallow (Malva neglecta), but the square stem of Ground Ivy distinguishes it from the Common Mallow which has a round stem. Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) and Persian Speedwell (Veronica persica) are somewhat similar in appearance to Ground Ivy, but none of them have creeping stems that root at the nodes. Of these four all but the Persian Speedwell are edible.

What Insects See in Ultraviolet Light, Photo by Bjørn Rørslett – NN/Nærfoto

Ground Ivy, once known as Nepeta glechoma and Nepeta hederacea in the Catnip genus, is a native of Europe and southern Asia. It was introduced into North America by 1672, probably earlier, for medicinal uses. Gound Ivy moved west and was naturalized in Indiana by 1856 and Colorado by 1906. How and exctly when it was distributed is not known. While it concentrates in the deciduous and riparian forests of the Northeast and around the Great Lakes it is now found throughout North American except for the desert southwest (New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada) and the three top tier northwest Canadian Providences (the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut.) It also surprisingly missing on the east end of the continent from the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

Saint Pierre and Miquelon

Don’t know where Saint Pierre and Miquelon are? This is your lucky geographic day: The islands are situated at the entrance of Fortune Bay off the southern coast of Newfoundland. They are not part of Canada but still part of France, a leftover toehold in the New World from colonial days. Residents are French citizens and vote in French election though the home county is more than 4,000 miles to the east. It was from these islands that a large amount of Canadian whisky was smuggled into the United States during prohibition. Makes you think they should have called it French Whisky, or at least French Canadian Whisky.

Though you may think Ground Ivy’s botanical name has some Scottish influence it’s totally Mediterranean…well, almost. Glechoma is latinized Greek, or in this case very bastardized Greek for pennyroyal. The Greek word is Βλήχων, said VLEE-kon, yes, with a V. How that got mangled into gleh-KOH then gleh-KOH-ma is any linguistic guess. This also why the genus spelled Glechoma and Glecoma because there is no agreement on how to translate the Greek X into Dead Latin or English. The X is close, though, to the CH as in a Scottish “loch” but not as hard. Hederacea (head-er-ah-SEE-uh) is Dead Latin for “like ivy” read creeping. When all put together it kinds of means Pennyroyal Ivy. Common names include Alehoof, Catsfoot, Field Balm, Run-Away-Robin, Lizzie-Run-Up-The-Hedge, Herbe St. Jean, occasionally Creeping Charlie — which is the name of many plants — and Gill-Over-The-Ground, the latter perhaps being the most common after Ground Ivy. “Alehoof” means “ale herb” a time when Ground Ivy was used like hops.

While humans can consume it within reason. Ground Ivy is toxic to horses in large amounts. There are a dozen species in the genus.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile: Ground Ivy

IDENTIFICATION: Glechoma hederacea: Flowers usually in clusters of three in the axils, the area between the stem and petiole. Flowers blue-violet, 3/8 to 5/16 inch long. Leaves are opposite, nearly round or occasionally kidney-shaped, on long petioles. Edges scalloped, large rounded teeth. Leaf veins rise from the same point. Stems square, trailing, rooting at the nodes, mostly hairless but with occasional short, stiff backward-pointing hairs. Seed, tiny nutlets, egg-shaped and brown in color. Each flower produces four seeds.

TIME OF YEAR: In cooler climes blooms later spring to early summer. Here in Florida it is a spring and fall plant, avoiding the hot summer. In Canada it can be found September to November.

ENVIRONMENT: Thrives in moist not saturated shaded areas, but will also tolerate sun. Common plant in grasslands, wooded areas disturbed ground, around damns. Because of rooting at the nodes it survives mowing, is found in lawns and around buildings. Has no particular soil requirements but is difficult to permanently remove from any soil other than very loose.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: While it is in the greater mint family Ground Ivy is not a gentle mint as many are. Use very young Ground Ivy for greens and soup et cetera, older leaves for tea and medicinal applications. Fresh or dried leaves are used for herbal tea, bitter, young shoots and leaves eaten like spinach, cooked in soups which they flavor, try first. The Saxons added it to their beer for flavor like hops, to clarify the beer, and add shelf life. It is very high in iron.

Herb Blurb

A 1986 study found that Ground Ivy’s ursolic and oleanolic acids inhibited the Epstein-Barr virus and protected mouse skin from induced tumor growth. A 1991 study showed the species fatty acid stimulated enzyme activity in blood platelets. Traditionally it was used to treat sciatica, ringing in the ears, constipation caused by lead poisoning, kidney disorders, indigestion, coughs, and tuberculosis. Animal research has not supported its use for cough. Leaves, dried or fresh was stuffed up the nose to relieve headaches.

Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) is a perennial, evergreen creeping plant of the Lamiaceae family. It has a large number of common names including creeping charlie, alehoof, field balm, gill over the ground, haymaids, hedgemaids, tunhoof, catsfoot (not Antennaria dioica), runaway robin and creeping jenny (not Lysimachia nummularia). It is also not ivy (hedera helix)!

Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

It is commonly found in the British Isles and many other areas of the world including the USA, Canada and most of Europe. It is often classed as a weed but this is the case with many useful and edible wild plants and we’re inclined not to take much notice of that!
Growing methods
Sow seeds on the surface and barely cover with soil in the spring or early autumn. Seeds need to be cold treated for two weeks prior to sowing. Seeds require light and moisture for germination. They will germinate within 10 days at 10°C. Ground ivy grows to about 20cm in height and spreads as far as you will let it! It prefers woodlands, hedges and shady damp areas.

Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) plant in flower

Wild seed usually remains viable for short spells in the ground. Wild plants passively disperse seed which becomes mucilaginous when wet. Ground ivy spreads easily by runners that put down roots. It can easily be propagated by potting up a runner. If you are stuck for time, ready-grown plugs and plants can usually be purchased from wild flower companies.

Other uses
It is attractive to insect pollinators. It is a good ground cover plant for gardens since it colonises easily and does well in sunny or shaded areas. It has been a popular folk remedy for many conditions including tinnitus, sciatica, coughs, TB, digestive and kidney disorders. Historically it was used for brewing beer to clarify, add flavour and shelf life. It has also been used as a pot herb, cooked like spinach and used as a salad ingredient. It has been recommended as an antidote for stinging nettle stings.
Issues
There are some cautions regarding it’s use but overall it appears to be a fairly safe plant. Large quantities may be toxic to some animals. It is vigorous and will spread readily.
Raw Edible Parts
The kidney-shaped scalloped leaves, the square stems and small violet coloured flowers are all edible raw and can be picked at any time of year. The plant has an overall mild pepper flavour and smells of blackcurrants. A herbal tea can be made from it which is called Gill tea.

Herb to Know: Creeping Charlie

After the plants have finished flowering, they start creeping with a vengeance, sneaking under mulches and between specimen plants, working their way into the shadows, growing bigger and fatter as they put down roots into rich garden soil. They make an attractive, maintenance-free ground cover in shady areas where grass won’t grow. Just don’t plan to grow anything else in that area.

Uses for Creeping Charlie

The ancients found many medicinal uses for creeping Charlie. The English herbalist John Gerard reports Dioscorides’s remedy for sciatica “or ache in the huckle bone”: drinking “half a dram of the leaves” in “four ounces and a halfe of faire water, for fourty or fifty days together.” Galen preferred to use the flowers for this purpose and claimed that they, being very bitter, also “remove stoppings out of the liver.” Matthiolus used the juice, mixed with verdigris (a poisonous copper compound), to treat “fistulaes and hollow ulcers.”

Other ills reputedly eased by this herb include ringing in the ears, constipation caused by lead poisoning (“painter’s colic”), kidney disorders, indigestion, coughs, and tuberculosis. Either the dried leaves or the fresh juice might be snuffed up the nose to relieve headaches.

The plants are said to be toxic to horses, whether eaten fresh or dried in hay. Cattle, goats, and swine are said to refuse them.

Few scientific studies of creeping Charlie’s efficacy have been conducted. Animal experiments do not support its use as a cough medicine. A 1986 laboratory experiment showed that ursolic and oleanolic acids from the herb (these constituents are also found in numerous other plants) inhibited the Epstein-Barr virus and protected mouse skin from induced tumor growth. A 1991 study showed that a fatty acid from creeping Charlie stimulated enzyme activity in blood platelets.

English countrywomen commonly added creeping Charlie (which they called alehoof, “hoof” meaning “herb”) to their ale or beer to clarify it and add a bitter flavor. This custom seems to have died out following the introduction of hops to England in the seventeenth century.

Creeping Charlie’s tender young growth, rich in vitamin C, may be eaten like spinach or added to vegetable soup. The herbalist Maud Grieve calls a sweetened tea of the tops “an excellent cooling beverage.” In Europe and perhaps elsewhere, the gall wasp Cynips glechomae can cause the leaves to form big, hairy galls in autumn, which, according to Grieve, “are sometimes eaten by the peasantry of France.”

Growing Creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie thrives in moist, fertile soil in shade but also tolerates dry, poor soil in sun. Propagate it by replanting root-bearing stem segments.

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Creeping Charlie: Management and Value to Pollinators

Natural history, identification, and growth habit

Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea L.), also called ground ivy, is a common herbaceous perennial native to the British Isles. Creeping Charlie has since spread to North America, and has been present in our landscapes for nearly 200 years. While some consider creeping Charlie to be a weedy species, others consider it to be naturalized, and some seed providers will sell this flower as a form of ornamental ground cover. Creeping Charlie is an early spring bloomer (April-May) that is easily recognized by its small, pale violet flower. It grows well in shaded areas with fine-textured soils that are damp and slightly acidic to slightly alkaline (pH 5-7.5). Creeping Charlie spreads rapidly through stoloniferous growth, where stems grow at the soil surface and spread laterally. These stems are commonly referred to as “runners” and allow creeping Charlie to grow in its easily identifiable mat-like form of ground cover (Hutchings and Price 1999).

Creeping Charlie and lawns

Creeping Charlie is considered by many to be a nuisance weed in lawns. Creeping Charlie will infiltrate lawn areas that have been neglected or otherwise poorly managed. Once established within a lawn, creeping Charlie may suppress the growth of surrounding plants, due to a characteristic called “allelopathy”. An allelopathic plant will produce biochemicals that deter the fitness of surrounding plants. One study (Rice, 1986) found that flowers growing alongside creeping Charlie experienced decreased seed germination and faster rates of root and shoot growth.

An effective way to exclude creeping Charlie from your home lawn is by enacting responsible lawn management practices. The first thing to consider when establishing a home lawn should be species selection. In shaded areas, where creeping Charlie often thrives, it is important to utilize grasses like the fine fescues (Festuca spp), which are known to perform well in these areas. In the northern climates of the United States, Kentucky bluegrass is the most common species of turfgrass. While Kentucky bluegrass is a high quality turfgrass that performs well in terms of winter hardiness, this species of grass struggles in shady areas. Both tall fescue (Festuca anrundinacea) and fine fescue (Festuca spp.) are cool-climate turfgrass species that do well in shady areas. Mixing fescues with Kentucky bluegrass is an effective way to ensure that strong turfgrass density is present despite the shade provided by common yard trees. In addition to employing careful turfgrass species selection, it is important to utilize well informed mowing, irrigation, and fertilizer regimes to ensure proper turgrass health and density.

When creeping Charlie is present, but in low numbers, it may be possible to control the weed via hand weeding. When hand weeding, it is critical to remove the roots as well as the above ground portion of the plant to ensure that there is no re-emergence. Due to the aggressiveness of creeping Charlie, multiple weeding events may be required to remove all creeping Charlie vegetation. Management practices may also be imparted to favor the growth of turfgrass instead of creeping Charlie. A study by Price and Hutchings (1986) noted that creeping Charlie is less abundant when turfgrass is present, as the grass provides competition for sunlight and soil nutrients. Increasing access to sunlight will improve turfgrass growth, limiting the ability of creeping Charlie to spread through the turf lawn.

If creeping Charlie has already overtaken a lawn, there are several options for eradication. A sod-cutter is a machine that typically removes sod for transplant into a new lawn, but can also be used to quickly remove strips of weeds, like creeping Charlie, from a lawn. Removing strips of creeping Charlie will create an area of bare soil within the lawn, so if a sod-cutter is the preferred method of removal for a homeowner, it is important that all creeping Charlie vegetation is eradicated to prevent re-invasion. If any piece of plant material is not removed, there is potential for creeping Charlie to re-establish within the lawn. After all creeping Charlie vegetation is removed, the areas of bare soil should be seeded with high quality turfgrass to ensure dense, uniform germination throughout the area. Lawns with dense turfgrass coverage are less susceptible to weed invasion, including invasion by creeping Charlie. A second way to remove an area of a lawn overrun by creeping Charlie is through solarization. Solarization is a pesticide free form of weed control that involves placing a clear plastic sheet over the soil during the warm months of spring and summer. The clear plastic sheet captures heat and sunlight, raising soil temperatures to the point where grasses and weeds can no longer survive. Solarization is best fit for sunny, flat sites that are less than 1/4 of an acre in size. In cooler, shaded areas (where creeping Charlie is likely to be found) the process of solarization takes the better part of a growing season, typically 5-6 months, or up to a full year in some instances. Additional information on solarization can be found through the Xerces society at . The plastic should be removed in the late fall when soil temperatures are 35-55°F so that new grass can be installed via dormant seeding. Dormant seeding occurs at these temperatures because the soil is too cold for germination to occur, but the ground is not yet frozen. This ensures that the target species seeded into the newly prepared area will germinate once the proper number of degree days has occurred. If seeded properly, the new turfgrass area should be dense, uniform, and free of weed pressure. An additional strategy that can be used to remove a creeping Charlie infestation is the use of chemical herbicides, specifically herbicides where glyphosate or triclopyr are active ingredient. While this is a less ecologically friendly solution to removing an undesirable weedy species, it is an effective way to remove this invasive weed. Applications of glyphosate are most effective on warm, calm days when plants are actively growing. It is important to avoid windy days to ensure that herbicide applications do not drift onto non-target plants. Glyphosate treatments are most effective when two treatments are applied, with the second treatment taking place 7-10 days after the initial treatment. After the creeping Charlie has been removed, high quality grass seed should be overseeded onto the turf lawn.

Value to bees and other pollinators

For those that live in an area where letting creeping Charlie grow is not a problem for neighbors, creeping Charlie can serve as a nectar source. Creeping Charlie employs a unique strategy to attract some bee visitors, such as sweat bees, bumble bees, and honey bees, that is tied into how the flower produces nectar. The flowers have a unique strategy for rewarding visitor pollinators, commonly referred to as the “lucky hit” strategy. Creeping Charlie flowers produce an average of 0.3 microliters of nectar per flower, but the amount of nectar in any one flower varies greatly, ranging from 0.06 to 2.4 microliters. When 805 creeping Charlie flowers were sampled for nectar quantity, it was found that only 8% (64/805) of these flowers had a large volume of nectar, and the rest had almost none (Southwick et al. 1981). The availability of nectar also varies throughout the day. As the morning fades into afternoon, “lucky hits” become less frequent, as creeping Charlie flowers do not replenish their nectar throughout the day. Most flowers produce their nectar at night or in the early morning, so it is believed that all the “lucky hits” available in the afternoon are ones that were missed by bees earlier in the day. One researcher (Southwick et al. 1981) found that bees foraging on creeping Charlie for 5.9 minutes obtained enough nectar from the flowers to make foraging on creeping Charlie energetically profitable.

While Creeping Charlie could be a good nectar source for bees, we are not recommending that you let it take over your lawn. In addition to the issues associated with nectar production, pollen (the main protein source for bees) from creeping Charlie is not readily available to visiting bees and other insect pollinators. Bees need a variety of food sources, and the best lawns have many kinds of flowers, hopefully with a range of bloom times. Creeping Charlie is invasive, and can prevent you from growing additional flowers in your lawn. Instead, if you are looking to promote pollinator health in your lawn or garden, we recommend planting a diversity of flowers that produce high quality nectar and pollen consistently. That being said, if your lawn/garden is already overrun with creeping Charlie, and you have not had a chance to eradicate it yet, take pleasure in seeing the bees buzzing around it, and look out for when they spend extra time on one bloom. They are likely hitting the jackpot!

Bibliography

Dickinson, R. and Royer, F. Weeds of North America, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. 2014

Ford, K. 2016. The value of lawn weeds for pollinators: not all weeds are created equal. University of Minnesota Extension Publication.

Hultén, E. 1971. The Circumpolar Plants. II. Dicotyledons. Almquist & Wiksell, Sweden.

Hutchings, M.J., Price, E.A.C. 1999. Glechoma hederacea L. (Nepeta glechoma Benth., N. hederacea (L.) Trev.)

Southwick, Edward E., Gerald M. Loper, and Steven E. Sadwick. “Nectar production, composition, energetics and pollinator attractiveness in spring flowers of western New York.” American Journal of Botany (1981): 994-1002.

Health Benefits of Ground Ivy

Ground ivy is such a beautiful and useful herb, often overlooked. Even with its gorgeous flowers, this plant produces mixed feelings from gardeners, for sometimes taking over where it’s not wanted.

But hopefully after reading this, it can be allowed to roam in your permaculture plot, where it will yield more than just its food and medicine.

Although only a small wee thing, it makes a big impression on the eye when in flower. If you are currently seeing areas of land adorned with splashes of blue, and only a few inches high in the grass, then it is likely to be ground ivy.

By learning the key identifying characteristics of this plant, you will also find yourself identifying unknown mint family relatives when you meet them in the wild, or out in zones 00-5.

Description

Glechoma hederaceae is a perennial plant, and another useful member of the large and mostly aromatic mint family. Its simple, kidney-shaped, deep green leaves are typically scalloped and slightly undulating at the margins, with essential oil glands on the undersides. They are borne on long petioles

The upper leaf surface has a covering of very small bristly hairs. The leaves can often be a slight purple hue, depending on soil, site, and time of year. Ground ivy can be found in all but the harshest winters.

As with all mint family plants, the stems are square, and have opposite pairs of simple leaves. Ground ivy’s stems are also covered in fine bristly hairs.

The main flowering season is late March or April until May. As with all its relatives, these distinctive flowers are two-lipped. Usually you will see two or three appearing from the leaf axil. The corolla tubes are quite long (approx 10-12mm).The flowers are great wildlife attractants.

Superficially, at a glance, this plant could be mistaken for purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum) and henbit dead nettle (Lamium amplexicaule). Both those plants are related and are edible.

Only when in flower will ground ivy be found erect. I don’t often see ground ivy above 8-10 inches high. This is because it grows on ‘runners’ (horizontally growing stems, just above the soil surface that can produce roots and shoots from every node). This adaptation makes ground ivy an exceptional coloniser of bare soil and darker, shady areas of the garden.

A similar method of growth is employed by mints (Mentha) but their stems are found just under the soil surface, carrying the same capacity to root and shoot at every node.

Habitat

Ground ivy loves a well-drained soil. It is happy growing in sun or shade and does very well on sandy soils where its creeping stems can penetrate and colonise land quickly, hence gaining the epithet invasive in many garden texts.

As with much in gardening or foraging, terms and values are interchangeable, debatable and always site specific. One person’s invasive plant is another’s quick and effective ground cover!

It will often be seen growing in similar sites to common ivy, and amongst or near to nettles. Try also looking for it at field edges and in other grassy areas. You may also find it on northern sides of hedges and hedge-banks in the summer months, as well as in woodlands, especially glades and woodland edges.

Parts used – Leaves and flowering tops.

Harvest – Just before flowering is best, though leaves and flowers can be taken for medicinal or culinary use at any time.

Actions – mild expectorant, anti-catarrhal, vulnerary, diuretic, astringent.

Traditional uses – Many herbal authors of old, such as Gerard, noted its use and action on the mucus membranes, thus employing the plant as an expectorant and a cure for colds. Ground ivy’s aromatics really remind me of sage or thyme and mint. I love the scent, but they’re not everyone’s cup of tea.

Its chemistry has been quite extensively documented. The astringent activity is reportedly due to rosmarinic acid, whilst terpineol is known to be antiseptic. Astringency and anti-inflammatory actions of ground ivy are usually associated with the tannins and flavonoid fractions.

Pulegone is the abortifacient agent responsible for the actions of Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) where it is found at concentrations of 1-2%. However, it is not present in this plant in high enough concentrations (0.03-0.06%) to be considered harmful.

The terpene-rich volatile oil of this plant indicates it will be an irritant to the mucous membranes of the stomach as well as other parts of the gastro-intestinal tract and kidneys. Irritation is not necessarily harmful because the C.N.S is kick-started into producing responses we desire from it.

Without question this plant is the best antidote I know of for nettle stings. Simply crush the leaves and rub juice on the afflicted area. I have a hunch it is the thicker essential oil components that are partly responsible for soothing the reaction to urtication.

As a food, ground ivy also makes a welcome addition to many a pie, soup or broth. Stuffing mixes are also enhanced with ground ivy. Flowers can be added to salads.

This plant would have been a much welcome green leaf to our ancestors, especially in the late-winter-to-early spring period, when fresh new leaves are scarce. Its leaves cook down like spinach and the volatile oil within them lends a mild sage/mint-like flavour to dishes.

For the home brewer this plant is well worth foraging for during spring. It lends an aromatic bitterness and also has renowned abilities to clarify ale, for which it was once popularly used.

Discover more about our edible wild plants; order my colour coded harvest charts and calendars, and book on my all year round foraging walks, by visiting my new website www.wildplantguide.co.uk

Further resources

Many benefits of hawthorne

Powerful medicinal benefits of wild carrots

The medicinal benefits of rose hips

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Ground ivy’s growth habit is, well, ivy-like. The main stem creeps along the ground, sending out small, but strong, fibrous roots at each leaf axil that touches the ground. The main stem is square, and the long leafstalks are semi-circular, following the same pattern as the paired, opposite leaves. The leaves are rounded, with scalloped edges, and about ½” to 1 ½” across. They’re generally green, but they often develop a purplish or reddish tinge. The leaves have a minty scent, which I find pleasant in small doses, but sometimes rather strong when mowing the lawn. Ground ivy can be invasive, and is often considered a weed, though it’s also sometimes used as a tough, shade-tolerant ground cover.

In the early spring, the plant produces upright branches (to 8″) which usually bear three to seven, ½” to ¾” purple flowers. The flowers are bilaterally symmetrical (right and left mirror each other, but top and bottom don’t) with five united petals and four stamens. The petals form a tube which splits into a small upper lip, and a larger, three lobed, lower lip. These flowers are worth a closer look, especially if you happen to have a magnifying glass.

I recall picking ground ivy leaves when I was seven or so, and drying them for tea, though I haven’t the faintest idea who told me I could.

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