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Aegopodium_podagraria - L.

Common Name Ground Elder, Bishop's goutweed, Goutweed, Ground Elder, Bishop's Weed
Family Apiaceae or Umbelliferae
USDA hardiness 4-9
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Hedgerows and cultivated land[17]. A common garden weed[17].
Range Most of Europe, including Britain, to western Asia and Siberia.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
Aegopodium_podagraria Ground Elder, Bishop

Aegopodium_podagraria Ground Elder, Bishop


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Aegopodium podagraria. Ground Elder is a vigorous and very invasive perennial, growing about 60cm tall and spreading rapidly by its roots. It is very difficult to eradicate because any small piece of root left in the ground will quickly regrow. Whilst it is occasionally grown as a ground cover in the wilder parts of the garden (shrubs and strong growing bulbs such as some lilies grow very well through it), it really is too vigorous for most other herbaceous species. There is, however, a variegated form of this species that is less invasive and is sometimes grown in the ornamental garden. Ground Elder has a long history of edible and medicinal use; indeed it was cultivated as a food crop and medicinal herb in the Middle Ages. It was used mainly as a food that could counteract gout, one of the effects of the rich foods eaten by monks, bishops etc at this time. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked and have an unusual tangy flavour which is an acquired taste, although some people like it.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Aegopodium_podagraria is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to July. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, flies. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Leaves - raw or cooked[2, 4, 5, 12, 54, 100]. An unusual tangy flavour[183], the majority of people we give it to do not like it[K] although some reports say that it makes a delicious vegetable[244]. The leaves are best harvested before the plant comes into flower, they can be used in salads, soups, or cooked as a vegetable[9].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Ground Elder has a long history of medicinal use and was cultivated as a food crop and medicinal herb in the Middle Ages. The plant was used mainly as a food that could counteract gout, one of the effects of the rich foods eaten by monks, bishops etc at this time. The plant is little used in modern herbalism. All parts of the plant are antirheumatic, diuretic, sedative and vulnerary[9, 13, 53, 54, 61]. An infusion is used in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis and disorders of the bladder and intestines[9]. Externally, it is used as a poultice on burns, stings, wounds, painful joints etc[9, 268]. The plant is harvested when it is in flower in late spring to mid-summer and can be used fresh or be dried for later use[9, 238]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the flowering plant[9]. It is used in the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism[9].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

This species makes a good ground cover for semi-wild situations[200]. Make sure that it has plenty of room since it can be very invasive and is considered to be a weed in many gardens[208]. Landscape Uses: Border, Container, Foundation, Ground cover, Woodland garden.

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Prefers damp shady conditions[12, 13, 200] but succeeds in most soils[200]. Prefers a well-drained soil, succeeding in sun or shade[238]. Plants are hardy to at least -15°c[200]. This species was cultivated in the Middle Ages as a medicinal and food plant[5, 17, 177, 268]. A very invasive plant, spreading freely at the roots[4, 53, 208], though it seldom sets seed in Britain[208]. Once established it can be very difficult to eradicate because any small piece of root left in the ground can regrow[K]. If introducing this plant to your garden, it might be best to restrict the roots by growing the plant in a bottomless container buried in the soil[238]. There is a variegated form of this species that is less invasive and is sometimes grown in the ornamental garden[208]. Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[233]. Special Features: Attractive foliage, Not North American native, Invasive, Naturalizing, Wetlands plant. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is rhizomatous with underground stems sending roots and shoots along their length [2-1]. Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early summer. Form: Prostrate, Spreading or horizontal.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. Division in spring. Very easy, divisions can be carried out at almost any time of the year and the divisions can be planted out straight into their permanent positions.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Preferred Common Name: ground elder (UK). International Common Names: English: bishop's goutweed (USA). Spanish: egopodio; hierba de San Gerardo. French: egopode podagraire; herbe aux goutteux; herbe de Saint Gérard; pied de chèvre. Local Common Names: Germany: Baumtropfen; Geissfuss, gewöhnlicher; Giersch. Italy: castaldina; egopodo; erba gerarda; pie di capra; podagraria. Netherlands: zevenblad. Sweden: kirskaal. [1-8]

Native to Europe and Asia, but has been introduced around the world. Distributed widely in the temperate zone of western Asia and the whole of mainland Europe. Identified in Europe: Denmark, France, Corsica, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Poland, United Kingdom. United States: Alaska. Oceania: Australia (including Tasmania). New Zealand. Japan [1-8].

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

This plant can be weedy or invasive. Connecticut (goutweed) Invasive, banned. Massachusetts (Bishop's goutweed, bishop's weed, goutweed) Prohibited. Vermont (goutweed) Class B noxious weed. [1c]. An "aggressive" invader in the upper Great Lakes region and northeastern North America, Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. Because of its potential impacts on native communities and the difficulty of its control, it has been banned or restricted in some jurisdictions outside its native range, including in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Vermont in the USA.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Aegopodium podagrariaGround Elder, Bishop's goutweed, Goutweed, Ground Elder, Bishop's WeedPerennial0.6 4-9 FLMHFSNM322

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

Dries   Fri Apr 18 05:02:58 2003

I have given ground elder with the roots attached to my rabbit on different occassions. THe rabbit is very choosy and lives free in my garden so it can eat what it wants. It ate the whole plant, starting from the roots. Seeing this I myself tried some of the roots, finding them better tasting then just the leaves. This was in early spring when the leaves were just emerging.

Correction to my earlier comment   Sun Apr 20 18:34:08 2003

What I referred to as 'roots' seem, on closer look, more like underground stems, with little side roots attached to them.

Dr. med. veronika Rampold   Mon Dec 26 2005

I eat the young leaves, "when they still are bright green, glossy, and not wholly unfolded" (Kocher / Rothmayr, Ernte ohne Saat, 1948). They have a fishy odor when cooked but it goes away while cooking. They develop a brownish color when cooked. My most pleasant "wild spinach" recipe is: take stingy nettle shoots, ground elder leaves of the kind named above and stellaria media shoots at equal parts, cook them as you would do with young spinach, spice with garlic, eat it on a good thick egg-pancake!

Dr. Robert!   Sat Feb 25 2006

Aegopodium Podagraria is very good and useful herb. It was (the only) food of our great Russian saint Seraphim of Sarov for three years.

Margaret   Thu Jul 20 2006

We eat the leaves very happily as it is all over our garden and it's a tasty way of getting revenge. When we have to dig it out of beds I have tossed the lot, roots, leaves and flowers to the hens and they seem to consume the lot, which is handy. Excellent ground cover under soft fruit, doesn't seem to reduce the berry crop at all.

K Danielsen   Tue May 29 2007

Just saute loads of leaves (stems are all right as well) in olive oil and garlic. Perhaps some tomato. Salt. Or use it in any vegetable stew. I have not tried the seeds or flowers. Yet. And, I am experimenting on preserving them (yes! preserving weeds) for the winter (drying, freezing, pickling). As someone said: A "revenge", perhaps? I see it as using a free gift from my minimal-effort garden here on the northwestern Norwegian coast (Molde).

Nellie   Tue Aug 26 2008

Thanks for all the useful information - I had no idea one could eat it. However, it has taken over my raspberry bed and I cannot seem to get rid of it, roots and all, without losing my few remaining raspberry plants. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

martin nicklin   Tue Sep 30 2008

There is a lovely variegated variety called, not surprisingly, Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegatum' which is much more garden-worthy although spreads incredibly fast so plant it with caution. It grows in my garden in deep shade and retains its bold variegation. It is presumably also edible although I have not heard of anyone trying it!

Hairy Caterpillar   Thu Dec 4 2008

We started getting complaints after selling the variegated form. Introducing it to your garden will introduce normal ground elder eventually. So get your recipes ready!

Edible Plants

Dominic   Fri Dec 26 2008

Dr. Robert's comment on Aegopodium podagraria as the only food of the russian Saint Seraphim of Sarov is interesting. Is there a background or source reference for this. It implies that the root is edible as otherwise St seraphim must have had to do a lot of pickling for the northern winter when the leaves would have withered down.

Dan Uhrbom   Tue Jun 9 2009

Aegopodium podagraria has for me been 90 % of my food 30 days together with nettle, danderline, fruit and a lot of water. I put it in a blender or a mincer. Enough with fruit it taste good and I want more because I like it. The name of it is Green Smoothie and my body feel so good. Here in Sweden I will try this to the end of oktober. Wintertime it will be dried weeds, fruit and water. I have learned that all neccassary nutrition is in this combination, proteins, minerals, oil/fat, vitamins and enzymes.

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