3 Herb Mamas

Wednesday’s Weeds: WHAT’S THIS PLANT?

By far the most commonly asked question on weed walks, through e-mailed or Facebook-messaged photos, or even via phone calls is, “What’s this plant?” Over the years I have learned that the sooner I reveal the name of a plant the quicker people stop listening and noticing details about the plant. It’s as if the name is the sum total of what constitutes knowing an organism. Imagine if we approached knowing people or animals like that. Just a long series of  girls, boys, dogs, cats, lizards, women, grandfathers, infants, and so on. Maybe some would go a little further and be able to label them Ben Johnson, Michelle Winston, Gi-gi, Golden Retriever, Siamese, etc. But that would hardly scratch the surface of actually knowing them, wouldn’t it?

I feel the same thing can happen with plants. I like to point at a jagged toothed  leafy plant on weed walks and ask who knows what the plant is. Almost invariably every hand goes up and I hear shouts of: Dandelion! And everyone is ready to move on because we all know the name and like to assume that means we know the plant. (Sometimes I am ornery and point to a young Chicory plant, which looks very similar until you get down close and notice the differences.) Then we proceed to spend another 20 minutes or so noticing details about the Dandelion, tasting, talking about its value and strengths, how it helps the soil, plants around it, humans. In 20 minutes I still know I have only scratched the surface because in the 5+ decades I have been walking this good green Earth and delighting in and using this plant, I continue to learn something new about it every single year.

So, for today’s wild plant (that turns out to be a traditional medicinal), I will save the name for the end (Please don’t scroll ahead!) and take you through a step-by-step process on how to identify a plant that you do not know. I always recommend using keys over field guides. Field guides can be wonderful tools and provide useful information. However, they can also make us lazy about our identification methods and can possibly result in mis-identifications. This is because most of us tend to flip through all those lovely color photos haphazardly hoping to come across one that matches the plant in front of us. The important information lies in the description and botanical terms, which all too often are ignored once a name/label has been found.

Two of my favorite keys are NEWCOMB’S WILDFLOWER GUIDE by Lawrence Newcomb and BOTANY IN A DAY by Thomas J. Elpel. Each one works slightly differently so I will stick to NEWCOMB’S today and save BOTANY IN A DAY for another plant on another day. NEWCOMB’S has no color photos so it often gets overlooked on book store shelves. You should read the introduction to understand fully how the key works  but you will see it in a nutshell here as we identify this plant:


This lush, green vine with the lovely heart shaped leaves is the one I am interested in today. It is growing in the woods near my home.

My first step is to just sit down and enjoy the plant, notice where it is growing (in a shady woodland), the direction in which is it growing (away from rather than toward the sun), other plants around it that I might know, and so on. I also like to simply “listen” to the plant. This is maybe a more elusive concept…learning directly from the plants themselves…but it is something I like to take time out to do. I often jot down “inspirations” that come to me about how the plant might be useful and to whom, which parts or whether to use it whole, dried or fresh, whether it might be food or medicine, etc. I don’t worry about being right about any of it because I will do research later to confirm or refute my perceptions. It’s just a very affirming experience living in the Information Age to remember that not all knowledge needs to be obtained in a linear, print- or electronic-based format. If this idea intrigues you Stephen Harrod Buhner has written extensively on the topic in THE LOST LANGUAGE OF PLANTS, SECRET TEACHINGS OF PLANTS: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature as well as his new release, PLANT INTELLIGENCE AND THE IMAGINAL REALM:Beyond the Doors of Perception into the Dreaming of Earth. I haven’t read the last one but it is on my wish list. There is never anything derivative about Mr. Buhner’s work. Gotta love someone whose job title includes Earth Poet & Bardic Naturalist.

These steps completed, I am ready to open my NEWCOMB’S and get started on a positive identification. There are 5 questions to answer (pg. x) and they go something like this:

*The first two questions have to do with flower type. Botanical terms are used but you don’t have to study and memorize them before using the key. Handy line drawings and explanations of terms are only a couple of pages away (starting on pg. xiv). So the first question is Is the flower regular (radially symmetrical) or irregular, or are the flower parts indistinguishable? Here is a very close, tight shot of a single tiny opened flower on the vine, thanks to my daughter’s photography skills (Thanks, Morgan!):


This flower is tiny, about the size of a peppercorn. A magnifying glass is a handy tool for noting details on such small blossoms.

For my second question NEWCOMB’S  asks, If regular, how many petals or similar parts does it have? If you don’t have a field guide, botany text, or other such book I am certain you can google these terms for now and find clear illustrations of the difference between regular and irregular flowers. I answered that the flower was regular with 6 petals. This resulted in me obtaining the first of three numbers that the book assigns in the keying out process. A flower with 6 regular parts (or petals) is given the number 6.

On to the next two questions that will help me determine the plant type. NEWCOMB’S asks Is the plant a wildflower or a shrub or a vine? If it is a wildflower, is it without leaves, or if it has leaves, are they all at the base of the plant, or are they arranged singly on the stem (alternate), or are they opposite one another in pairs or whorls? (There’s three new terms for you: alternate, opposite, and whorled…You’re learning to speak Botany!) Here are two more photos of my plant that can help answer these two questions:



What plant type would you classify this one as?

Due to the twining nature of the plant I chose to label it a vine. This gave me the second digit in the three digit number that helps locate the specific plant I am identifying. Vines are the plant type labeled with the number 6. Thus, I have a two digit key number now of 66.

The last question is about the type of leaf on the plant. NEWCOMB’S asks Are the leaves entire (with even and unbroken margins), or are they toothed or lobed or divided? Entire, toothed, lobed, divided…four more botanical terms; you’re doing great. Look back at the leaves in the photos of our lovely plant. What type do you think they are?

I called these leaves entire because the edges were smooth and unbroken. This leaf type gets a number 2, which means my three digit locator number for using the locator key in NEWCOMB’S is 662. I flip to the locator key which begins on page 1 and thumb through to number 662. That number tells me to turn to page 356 where I should find a line drawing of the plant in the picture above if I have answered all of the questions correctly. I’m pretty excited at this point and I’ve learned a bunch of new terms without any studying, memorizing or quizzes. The line drawing matches (Giant, happy smile inserted here!) but it is important not to stop here. I look to the left of the drawing to read the description carefully to make sure that is a match as well. Here is what I read:

“Flowers in drooping racemes or spikes, leaves long-pointed, heart-shaped at the base. Flowers small, greenish-yellow, the staminate and pistillate in separate clusters. [You’ll learn those terms as you go along but you don’t need them to use this key.] Leaves entire and alternate, or the lower ones in whorls of 3. Stem twining 5-15 feet long. Moist thickets, s. New England to Minnesota and south…”

I double check all these features on the plant in front of me. (Is it driving you crazy yet that I haven’t told you the name?) But what’s this? I do, indeed, see both alternate and whorled leaves but the whorled ones have more than 3 leaf stems. Here are some photos of the two leaf attachment types on the same plant.


Leaf stems are attached here in a staggered, or “alternate” manner.


Clearly whorled leaf stem attachments but I count 5 here. 

But now I am armed with a name (which I will eventually reveal to you…I promise). I take this name and look up more information on the plant in my Peterson Field Guide EASTERN/CENTRAL MEDICINAL PLANTS by Steven Foster and James A. Duke and read:

“Perennial twining vine; stem smooth. Leaves alternate (lower ones in whorls of 3-8), heart-shaped, hairy beneath; veins conspicuous. Flowers not showy; male and female flowers separate…”

Bingo! Now I feel confident that I have correctly identified this plant. It matches the line drawings and descriptions in both books as well as the color photograph (the LAST thing I looked at) in Peterson’s. That book further tells me that:

“American Indians used the root tea to relieve labor pains. The freshly dried root (tea) formerly used by physicians for colic, gastrointestinal irritations, morning sickness, asthma, spasmodic hiccough, rheumatism, and ‘chronic gastritis of drunkards.’ Contains diosgenin, used to manufacture progesterone and other steroid drugs. Of all plant genera, there is perhaps none with greater impact on modern life but whose dramatic story is as little known as [this plant]. Most of the steroid hormones used in modern medicine, especially those in contraceptives, were developed from elaborately processed chemical components derived from [this plant]. Drugs made with…(diosgenins) relieve asthma, arthritis, eczema, regulate metabolism and control fertility. Synthetic products manufactured from diosgenins include human sex hormones (contraceptive pills), drugs to treat menopause, dysmenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, testicular deficiency, impotency, prostate hypertrophy, and psycho-sexual problems, as well as high blood pressure, arterial spasms, migraines, and other ailments. Widely prescribed cortisones and hydrocortisones were indirect products of the genus Dioscorea. They are used for Addison’s disease, some allergies, bursitis, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, brown recluse spider bites, insect stings, and other diseases and ailments. Warning: Fresh plant may induce vomiting and other undesirable side effects.”

Wow! What a plant and it is growing just outside my door and was not even planted or cultivated by any human. I hope you are as blown away by this as I am. Aren’t you glad that I didn’t just tell you the name of the plant right off? But I guess it is time, if you haven’t already guessed it…drum roll, please…

WILD YAM (Dioscorea villosa)


Handy identification tool kit. The magnifying glass is not essential but it can prove useful. I don’t usually write down my number results as I’ve done here but I wanted to be able to show the process clearly. The printed page is from NEWCOMB’S WILDFLOWER GUIDE and is the question page used to determine your three digit number for using the locator key and identifying the plant in question. The whole process took a little over 10 minutes, most of which was spent taking pictures. I had the plant identified in about 2 minutes. It certainly took far less time that writing about it did! It might be good to start with a couple of plants you actually already know, such as Dandelion, until you are comfortable using a key to identify. 

I have lost track of the precise quote or even the writer  (I think it was educational innovator, John Holt.) but I read a wonderful definition of intelligence many decades ago. It went something like this:

Intelligence is not defined by how many facts you know and can recall but, rather, by what you do when you don’t know the answer. 

I love that and try to keep it foremost in my mind as I go about my life. If we choose not to learn to use tools for finding answers we do not currently know, we will always be limited by what the one teaching us knows and what we can retain. But if we take the explorer’s approach, packing an abundant supply or curiosity and wonder, and take useful tools in hand…the sky’s the limit. Or is it?

Hoping all your discoveries are happy ones! ~Leenie

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Wednesday’s Weeds: MOTHERWORT

young motherwort

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) in early to mid spring

“Wort” is an Old English term that simply means plant. Thus, Motherwort can be thought of as mother’s plant. It is found throughout our area and at this time of year will most likely look like a low bushy clump as in the picture above. Later it will grow anywhere from 2-5 feet tall, as in this picture:

Mature Motherwort

Mature Motherwort in flower

Motherwort’s square stems readily reveal its membership in the Mint family. Leaves are opposite, 3-lobed, and toothed. The pinkish flowers are whorled and form in the axils of the leaf stems. The upper lip of the flower is furry but they are small so you will have to pause and take time to get a close up look to notice this.


Motherwort flowers

Motherwort has a long traditional use as a regulator, whether of hormones or heartbeats. It helps establish regular menstrual cycles and to tame the wild mood swings that can accompany them. Traditional midwives use Motherwort to regulate childbirth contractions and it can be a wonderful ally when heart palpitations during menopause become a concern. Scientific studies confirm its use as an antispasmodic, hypotensive, and mild sedative. Many Chinese studies have well documented laboratory and clinical reports of these uses as well as confirming its effectiveness as a uterine tonic.

I always enjoy botanical Latin for all that it reveals about a plant with just a word or two. Motherwort’s Latin binomial is Leonurus (lion) cardiaca (heart), hence lion-hearted. Motherwort has definitely helped me to “take heart” and face the challenges of daily life with greater fortitude, courage, and resilience. Rosemary Gladstar in her wonderful FAMILY HERBAL: A Guide to Living Life with Energy, Health, and Vitality says of it: “Motherwort is a superb tonic for nourishing and strengthening the heart muscle and its blood vessels. It is a remedy for most heart disease, neuralgia, and an over-rapid heartbeat. It is valued for many women’s health issues, including delayed menstruation, uterine cramps associated with scanty menses, water retention, and hot flashes and mood swings during menopause.” 

Flowering stem of Motherwort

The regularity and symmetry of Motherwort in flower hints at her charms and effects. She is erect and balanced. Leaves are opposite, uniform and evenly spaced. Flowers form in perfect whorls like crowns atop the leaf stems. When life feels chaotic, all-over-the-place, and demands seem to pull in every direction, Motherwort teaches our hearts to find a natural rhythm again and helps us return to a natural cadence.

I like to make a tincture from the plant using the leaves and flowering tops just as it begins to come into flower and the individual blooms are not quite open. Certainly gather it before it flowers fully. The leaves are the main part used medicinally so anytime that the leaves are looking vital and vibrantly alive they can be gathered. It can be dried and used in a tea along with other herbs for a flavor you like, or it can be steeped in alcohol (brandy, vodka, or pure grain alcohol) for 4-6 weeks before straining. It is traditionally used in a rhythmic way for regulating menses and typical PMS symptoms. That is, taken in doses of 10-15 drops in a little water or juice (or directly under the tongue straight-up) 2-3 times per day for the two weeks prior to the start of the period. If that is not known, simply start using it when PMS symptoms begin and continue for two weeks, then take a two week break. Two weeks on, two weeks off. Everything in balance, says Motherwort. As above, so below.

Leonurus cardiaca

Take heart, Good Mother, there’s a weed right outside your doorstep waiting to help. 


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Stone steps leading to my little greenhouse…perfect spot for a weed walk!

Probably my favorite herbal activity is sharing “weed walks” and teaching about wild edible and medicinal plants. A weed walk is simply a little nature trek ranging anywhere from a few steps to a few miles with the goal of identifying the green life all around us and gaining a greater appreciation for plants that are undervalued and overlooked. Although there are certainly an abundance of valuable plants throughout the deep woods and hills, I find that my main passion in sharing about these primary food plants lies closer to home. Sometimes folks show up for my weed walks decked out as if we are headed into the wilderness for a week. It is a surprise when they discover that we often never lose sight of my home. In fact, we’re often right outside my door.

This little stone step area is a perfect example. I could easily do an entire weed walk on just the plants in the photo…Photo Frame Weed Walks, now there’s a fresh idea! And so I think I will. Join me as we explore the food and medicine of my greenhouse steps and see how simple integrating the wild can be.


 Stonecrop (Sedum album, S. Rosea. & other species throughout our region)

A lovely and delicious wild edible, this formed the basis of my morning salad pictured at the end of this post. The flavor is lemony and fresh and the texture is crunchy like celery without ribs or like a fresh, crisp cucumber. It grows abundantly all around these stones, coming back year after  year. It started from a gifted 2 inch homemade cloth pot from a friend’s garden nearly two decades ago but it can be found growing wild, along with other Stonecrops around many of our favorite hiking spots nearby.  This small succulent plant is from the same plant family as the popular nursery plant ‘Hens & Chicks’ (Sempervivum).  White Stonecrop can be eaten raw or cooked and can be used medicinally for its mildly astringent and mucilaginous qualities for minor burns, abrasions or insect bites.  Thomas Elpel (Botany in a Day) says it is a safe laxative for children.

Stonecrop makes an excellent no maintenance planting for around stony, difficult, poor soil areas.

Young Queen Anne’s Lace/Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)

When I do weed walks I always slow way down when we come to this plant. Many people excitedly exclaim, “Oh, that’s Wild Carrot!” and are eagerly ready to start digging up the delicious roots. This plant is one that highlights the importance of accurate and absolute identification before consuming. The root is the wild ancestor of all cultivated carrots like you buy in the grocery store but there are distinct differences. The long taproot is white rather than the more familiar orange. Unlike the garden varieties, it contains a woody center that needs to be removed before cooking…unless you have beaver teeth. The scent when you dig the root is sweet and absolutely carrot-like. Another challenge is that you will want to gather first year roots of this biennial plant to get optimum size on the edible part of the root and it can be tricky to tell first year from second year plants, especially early in the season. It can grow lushly to a couple of feet tall or taller and forms lovely white umbels (think
umbrella-shaped) of flowers. These can be pressed and dried to use to decorate holiday evergreen trees and gift packages and cards, looking, as they do, like starry snowflakes.  *EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!* There is a poison look-alike for Wild Carrot. Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) is also a biennial plant with a white, carrot-scented taproot that grows at least a couple of feet and up to 6 feet tall with feathery leaves and umbels of white flowers. Eating even small amounts can result in paralysis and death. There are distinct differences between the two plants, which highlights the importance of paying attention to details. Wild Carrot has fine hairs along the stems, whereas Poison Hemlock has smooth, stout stems that are hollow and grooved and have purple spots or blotches along them. Wild Carrot often has a red or purple flower at the very center of the umbel of white ones while Poison Hemlock does not.

Here is a useful, short video that shows the differences between the two. Because both plants are young in the video you cannot see the splotches along the stem yet. I like his identification tip: “The Queen has hairy legs!”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5mLUG9cnaM

poison hemlock stem

Wild Carrot stem

Top photo: Poison Hemlock stem

Bottom photo: Wild Carrot stem

Wild Carrot flower

Wild Carrot flowering umbel (note the one red flower in the center)

Poison Hemlock flower

Poison Hemlock flowering

Although I would personally consume this plant I caution everyone, including myself, to be absolutely certain of identification of any plant before ingesting, especially Wild Carrot/Queen Anne’s Lace.

Calendula (Calendula officinale) seedlings among the sprouting Wild Carrot

These little Calendula seedlings are volunteers. Although Calendula  is both edible and medicinal I will wait to share about this plant later in the season when it is in full, blooming glory. I included it here because it is a member of the little stone stairway plant “tribe.” Here is a lovely image of it’s sunny brightness to come later in the season:

calendula-flower-openCalendula blossom

DandelionDandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

There is so much to say about this plant that it deserves a post all its own. Check back this Wednesday when it will be highlighted in Wednesday’s Weeds to learn all about her healing charms and delicious delights!

Purple Dead NettlePurple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum)

Both edible and medicinal, this plant is abundantly available right now. I threw some leaves in my salad but later I found this video recipe for Mushroom Onion Dead Nettle soup…I think a search for Morrel mushrooms and gathering some Wild Onions is order while the Dead Nettle is on. I might even make it a little creamy with some fresh goat milk. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xYivHjW49I

Red CloverRed Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Red Clover, like Dandelion, deserves its own post and will certainly get it as the season progresses. Gather the blossoms throughout spring and later in the fall. It tends to go dormant during the high heat of summer. You can identify it by the pale chevron at the center of each of its three leaves. The blossoms and top leaves are rich in B vitamins and have a long history of use as a tea for treating various tumors and abnormal cell growth. The blossoms are sweet and delicious sprinkled over a salad, eaten raw hand-to-mouth, or brewed into a tea. Bees love the lovely blossoms, too, so leave plenty for their good work. This is an expensive herb to buy dried and I have found the quality to be generally low commercially. Mountain Rose Herbs carries excellent quality when you can get it but why not gather your own locally? Here is what it will look like in bloom:

Red Clover

Red Clover blossom


Common Blue Violet (Viola papilionacea)

I am sure this plant needs a blog post of her own as well. What a beautiful sight to come upon a sweep of these is  shady spot in the spring. It prefers quiet, shady damp spots but years of tromping back and forth to our favorite violet-gathering spot, “Violet Valley” (named by my kids many years ago) has resulted in it growing abundantly right up to our door step. The flowers are sweet and tasty eaten like candies or sprinkled over a salad. They can be made into a syrup for homemade sodas or made into a lovely violet colored jelly. The heart-shaped leaves are edible as well. Both leaves and flowers make an excellent tea for sore throat.

So there is a mini weed walk that took less than half a dozen steps from my door and resulted in a wonderful breakfast as I move into the Eat-Something-Wild-Everyday season. This is what my breakfast bowl gathering basket looked like from the gleanings of the greenhouse stone steps:

Wild primary foods (“weeds”) in the gathering bowl and rinsed and ready for chopping.

Breakfast Wild Salad

Wild Breakfast Salad with Goat Milk Yogurt & Honey Dressing

Yes, I eat salad for breakfast, especially when the wild greens are on. What better way to start the day than with a little barefoot walk  and a gathering basket. I used Stonecrop, Dandelion leaves and flowers, Violet leaves and flowers, and Purple Dead Nettle…about a heaping cup. To this I added some garbonzo beans for some protein and made a dressing by combining a couple of tablespoons of homemade goat milk yogurt, a spoon of local raw honey, and a dash of stone ground mustard. Later in the season I would have added fresh raw sweet peas from the garden and maybe some wild or cultivated berries. Tossed it all together and topped with a few more Violet blossoms. Scrumptious! ~Leenie



Wednesday’s Weeds: GROUND IVY


Ground Ivy (Glecoma hederacea)

Other delightful common names include Alehoof, Cat’s Foot or Cat’s Paw, Gill-Over-the-Ground, Haymaids, Turn-hoof, Hedgemaids, Lizzy-Run-Up-the-Hedge, Robin-Run-in-the-Hedge, and Creeping Charlie.

It’s the time when some new plant species is making it’s first appearance of the year nearly every day. I won’t be able to keep up with a post a day or I’ll end up indoors all summer. Instead, I’ll make it a goal to post one wild plant each Wednesday. Many are primary food, some are medicinal plants, and others are simply integral to the overall ecosystem even if they are not primarily useful to humans. This could easily be a starting point for learning the common plants around your home and neighborhood. By the time the first frost hits at least 25 plants will have been presented. Taking the time once a week to go outside, identify, maybe gather a little and either prepare something using that week’s plant or even just drawing, pressing or studying the details (and learning some botanical terminology in the process) will serve as an enjoyable introduction to the science and art of wild-crafting.


This is a Ground Ivy specimen I gathered this morning just outside my front door, where it forms a nice ground cover, along with Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officinalis) and a little Comfrey (Symphytum officinalis), around the base of a Cherry tree. You can study it to learn some of the botanical terms used to describe this plant. Learning and applying these terms is a FAR more accurate way to identify a plant than looking a color photos or line drawings alone. The leaves of Ground Ivy are opposite and stalked and the plant root is perennial. The plant forms long, trailing, unbranched square stems (a trait of Mint, or Lamiaceae, family plants), which root at intervals and bear numerous, kidney-shaped leaves of dark green and are somewhat downy with regular rounded indentations on the margins. The flowers are purplish-blue and two lipped with small white spots on the lower lip blooming from April throughout the summer. It is a low-growing plant and you can get a sense of the scale in the photo above. (By the way, BOTANY IN A DAY by Thomas J. Elpel is a great place to begin learning hands on botany but most field guides provide definitions and line drawings of the basic terminology in the front and back cover pages.)

The scent of the plant is balsamic and pleasant, the taste bitter. Due to this bitterness, Ground Ivy is most often used as a tincture, that is, extracted and preserved in alcohol. Historically, it was the principal plant used by early Saxons up until the time of Henry VIII to clarify beer before Hops was introduced according to M. Grieve in A MODERN HERBAL. It improved the flavor, keeping quality and clarity. Interestingly, the term “gill”, as in Gill-Over-the-Ground, comes from the French guiller meaning to ferment.

The whole plant can be gathered in May when the flowers are at their peak and tinctured for use later. The plant’s actions are diuretic, mildly astringent, tonic and gently stimulantM. Grieve says it is useful in kidney and digestive disorders, for coughs and nervous headaches. Useful in pulmonary complaints where a kidney tonic is called for. The expressed fresh juice is diaphoretic, diuretic, and astringent. Combined with Yarrow and Chamomile, she suggests using it as a poultice for abscesses and tumors. It was traditionally used as a preventive and treatment for lead poisoning (“painter’s colic”) and herbalist David Winston has shared case studies that bear this use out. It has been used for hot, damp respiratory problems. That is, yellow, green or bloody mucous with fever. It increases bile secretions and, combined with Celery seed and Parsley leaf, is said to be effective for treating gouty arthritis.

I’ve eaten leaves of Ground Ivy and tried an infusion of the plant. They are not extremely unpleasant, but then I rather like bitter plants like Dandelion and Yellowdock. I will be gathering and tincturing some this year and experimenting with it a bit more. Only small doses are needed according to my research, in the range of 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Even if you opt not to use the plant medicinally or in home-brewing, it’s nice to know some of the qualities and attributes of this lovely, little ground cover.


Some early Ground Ivy creeping along the edge of one of our garden beds.


Words in BOLD are common botanical or herbal terms that it is best to learn and apply. You can look them up in any good herbal, field guide and botany text or use an online dictionary. The site below has a  free complete hyper-text version the classic, A MODERN HERBAL by Mrs. M Grieve, which is a wonderful reference even if it does reflect conventional wisdom of nearly 100 years ago. 


It is my habit to confirm all information about a plant I plan to ingest or use on my own body with at least 3 different sources, not just 3 books by the same author. 

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