For the last few weeks a pretty, violet flowered plant with downy, occasionally purple/maroon leaves, has been popping up all over the place. Not all over the place, obviously – there’s none in the kitchen, none in my shoes and I haven’t spotted any weather forecasters smirking with a sprig on their lapel. Everywhere in fields and woods then, mainly alongside paths and hedges as far as I can see (or that might just be where it’s most visible).
It was familiar but I didn’t know its name – my lovely assistant suggested ivy was in its name or it might be some kind of germander. Well, today I finally brutally grubbed up a stem with a couple of flowers on (sorry, plant), and braved my Wild Flower Key book – last time I tried this it told me* a plant I definitely knew to be red campion was a geranium so I didn’t have high hopes. But lo, it led me to Ground Ivy. No picture, but Bob’s your friend and voila, Google’s your uncle, as they say. Don’t they? And lo, the pictures did match and I have an ID but no, I’m not going to eat it.
In politically correct fashion the RHS skirts around calling it a weed, but attributes like “generally disease free” and listing every soil type known to man under its preferred situations should suggest you don’t want to plant it in Aunty Dorothy’s carefully manicured and glyphosated lawn. EatTheWeeds pulls no such punches – “prime weed of turfgrass and landscapes” – but has lots of interesting facts and goes off on a marvellous tangent about French whiskey, the kind of thing I can only dream of aspiring to one day. Chris Hope’s article in Permaculture magazine from last year is a hymn to its virtues as medicine, vegetable or brewing ingredient and is well worth reading. Both Eat the Weeds and Chris Hope mention minty aromas – interestingly on my doomed sprig, the lower leaves smell quite musty when rubbed but the younger, fresher leaves at the top are much more pleasant. Still going to be sticking to wild garlic and nettles for my March greens though…
Buglife and PFAF are some places that mention ground ivy as good for bees (bumble or honey, I’m not sure, but that has just made me think Bumble and Honey would be a great name for a firm of solicitors and certainly would take the sting out of a spot of probate or litigation). It seems to be quite an overlooked plant – I’d certainly overlooked it until today, but not any more (and also, if I ever become a spy, my code name is definitely going to be Ground Ivy). I’m nobody’s Aunty Dorothy so today marks my first and final attack on this rather lovely plant, the rest of it is staying where it is for my little winged friends.
On a relatively unrelated note, this is the bookmark I keep in the wild flower book.
*by “my Wild Flower Key book … told me” I mean of course that my lamentable botanical knowledge probably saw me skipping down the wrong path in several places on the key