16 April 2012

Creeping Charlie

A plant with weird little purple flowers is thriving in my lawn. I can tell it is a mint--the square stems and opposite leaves are diagnostic when identifying forbs in the field. As are the bi-labiate (two-lipped) flowers. I was taught the botanical family name for Mint was Labiate, but I see now it is called Laminaceae. Taxonomists are fussy sorts and are always renaming things. The stalks and leaves are reminiscent of cilantro, if cilantro had a hardy, mountain man version of the stuff you buy in the produce section. It is Glechoma hederacea, also known as ground-ivy, cat's foot, or creeping Charlie. The venerable Philip A. Munz called it Gill-over-the-Ground and said it had "retrorsely puberulent" stems which means "backward or downward with very short hairs." How I love botany talk! I note that Munz' magnum opus A California Flora is out of print, so I'm hanging on to my copy. It, like me, came to life in 1959. According to the Wikipedia entry, Saxons brewed with Glechoma hederacea before hops became commonplace, thus one of it's common names is ale-hoof. My encyclopedia of poisonous plants lists it as toxic to horses, but it is supposedly edible by humans either as a salad green or brewed in a tea. Those of you who'd like to help me get rid of it are welcome to all you can pluck out. Bon appetit!

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