Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

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) growing wild in the ground.
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.

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.


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.

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