If your lawn has been invaded by a low-growing, square-stemmed weed with coin-shaped foliage, purple-blue flowers and a minty aroma, you've got a case of ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) on your hands. Though ground ivy is cultivated as a ground cover in the U.K., in the U.S. it's considered a weed. Though ground ivy grows in a number of soil types, it does have a preference.
Ground ivy prefers moist, heavy, fertile and calcareous -- or chalky -- soil and thrives in shady sites. Yards that feature a combination of wet soil and shade form the perfect conditions for ground ivy, notes Michigan State University. Ground ivy doesn't grow well in saline or acidic soils.
Ground ivy has a number of other common names, including creeping Charlie, cat ivy, creeping Jenny, alehoff and gill. This fast-growing perennial spreads quickly by sending out stolons, or horizontal shoots up to 30 inches long that creep along the top of the soil, then root at nodes where the foliage attaches to the stem. Over time, ground ivy forms dense mats of kidney-shaped foliage with scalloped margins. In spring, ground ivy produces up to 8-inch stalks topped with blue-purple flowers.
Ground ivy is native to Europe, where it was valued as an ornamental and as an herb. Historically, ground ivy was used to flavor beer and ale. The common name "alehoff" comes from the old English for "ale ivy" while the common name "gill" comes from the French for "ferment," according to The Ohio State University Extension. European settlers brought ground ivy with them to North America as early as 1672, where it was cultivated in home gardens.
Soon after its introduction, ground ivy escaped cultivation. Today, this tenacious plant grows across much of the U.S. With the exception of Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico, ground ivy has naturalized across much of the lower 48 states, where it can be found growing in disturbed soil such as ditches, roadsides, fields, waste areas and in turf lawns. It generally grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3a through 10a.
- U.S. Forest Service: Glechoma Hederacea
- The Ohio State University Extension: Ground Ivy
- Michigan State University Turfgrass Science: Ground Ivy Control for Home Lawns
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension: Weed Control- Dandelion, Ground Ivy and Wild Violets
- U.S. National Park Service: Ground Ivy
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