Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Lamiales - Family: Lamiaceae
Despite its common name Ground-ivy is not a member of the Ivy family, Araliaceae, but a relative of the various mints and dead-nettles in the family, Lamiaceae.
The kidney-shaped leaves of Ground-ivy have round-toothed edges; they are often distinctly reddish and those near the top of the plants are sometimes so dark they could reasonably be described as purple.
Creeping stems rarely rear their heads higher than 20 to 30cm and bear funnel-shaped violet flowers 15 to 20mm long in opposing pairs in the leaf axils of the upper stems. Propagation to remote sites is via seeds and locally via rooting stolons.
Ground-ivy is common and widespread throughout Britain and Ireland, and it is also found in many other European countries, including Slovenia, and in southwest Asia. This species has also been introduced to other temperate regions including North America, where it has escaped into the wild and become naturalised.
This low growing creeper is mainly found beneath hedges, on old stone walls and in deciduous woodland, but any shaded grassy area is likely to contain Ground-ivy if the soil remains damp.
Ground-ivy is often one of the earliest colonisers of burnt ground such as the sites of forest fires.
In Britain and Ireland the first flowers usually appear in March, and Ground-ivy continues to bloom until at least the middle of June and occasionally into early July.
In the past this wildflower was used in many herbal remedies for a variety of ailments from coughs and colds to kidney disease.
Despite its known toxicity to cattle and horses, some people use Ground-ivy as a salad vegetable. It has also been used as a salad vegetable. (We strongly advise against eating or using as medicines any plants without first obtaining qualified professional advice.)
Glechoma, the genus name, comes from the Greek glechon, which means Pennyroyal, scientific name Mentha pulegiuma, a European mint species. The specific epithet hederacea means 'of Ivy'.
Bugle Ajuga reptans is similar in size and general structure; it has blue flowers and blooms rather later than Ground-ivy.
The pictures of Ground-ivy shown on this page were taken in West Wales during May and early June.