September 19, 2017

Gill-over-the-ground

Glechoma hederacea - Gill-on-the-ground

Glechoma hederacea - Gill-on-the-ground | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

European settlers carted a lot of plants around the globe, and Glechoma hederacea is no exception. This creeping perennial herb is a member of the mint family, which has notoriously invasive members, and was used medicinally for centuries in Europe to treat a variety of ailments, including inflammation, kidney ailments, indigestion and bronchitis. It also was brewed as a tea and used as a fresh salad green. It is found now in almost every state in nation, including all of New England. The plant itself is a creeper, with flowers rising up to 8 inches above the main foliage. It blooms in shades of blue to purple early in spring and can continue through July, according to the “National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers.”  Given its centuries of use, the plant has a number of common names, including ground ivy, Creeping Charlie and Gill-over-the-ground. That last name stems from the French “guiller,” meaning to ferment. The plant was used extensively before the introduction of hops to flavor beer, thus creating more common names such as Gill-over-the-ground, Alehoof and Tunhoof.

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.