Ground Elder - Aegopodium podograria

Main features

  • Grows in woodland, grassland, lawns, and near hedgerows

  • Invasive and vigorous in lawns

  • Leaves similar to Elder, but bottom pair of leaflets have a split almost looking like two leaflets

  • Umbels of white flowers in summer

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Ground Elder - Aegopodium podograria

Edible plant - intermediate

Other common names: Bishop’s Weed, Goutweed, Gout Wort, Snow-in-the-Mountain, English Masterwort, Wild Masterwort

 

Scientific name meaning: Aegopodium is a combination of the Greek Aigos/Aix for “goat”, and podo, meaning foot. The Latin word for gout is podagra, which as been applied to the species due to its use in herbal treatments

Season Spring to late autumn

Habitat - where will I find it? Ground Elder can be found across Europe and Asia in grassland, woodland, lawns and on grass verges, and near hedgerows

Description - what does it look like? The young leaves shoot up individually first. They are mush glossier at this stage than when they age. The leaves strongly resemble Elder leaves, but the lower pair of leaflets are split, looking like they are two separate leaflets joined together. 

The plant can eventually reach up to a meter in height and, in summer, forms umbels of white flowers.

It is a vigorous invasive plant and difficult to remove once established.

It was believed to be introduced by the Romans to Britain as a pot herb.

Possible lookalikes Could be confused with young Elder. However, Elder is a tree and has more woody and thicker stems. When very young, the shoots may be confused with other members of the Apiaceae (carrot) family, some of which are deadly poisonous

Use as a food The leaves taste remarkably similar to parsley, and can be used in the same way - either cooked or raw. They are best eaten when young and tender. As the plant ages, all parts, including flowers, can still be eaten, but the Ground Elder's medicinal effects are greatly increased - see Hazards

Use in herbal medicine Traditionally used as a treatment for gout, ground Elder has also been used to treat rheumatism, arthritis, bladder, and digestive conditions. In addition, it has been used to make poultices, and to treat burns and stings. 

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Hazards Ground Elder should not be eaten in any great quantity after flowering due to its increased diuretic, laxative and soporific effects. It may also be confused with poisonous members of the Apiaceae (carrot) family

Importance to other species Provides a food for the larvae of several species of moth

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!