Bishop's weed (Aegopodium podagraria) is ideal in contained and shady spots as a fast-growing ground cover. It can be aggressive though. Bishop’s Weed Ajava Seeds, Ajowan, Ajowan Caraway, Ajowan Seed, Ajowanj, Ajwain, Ajwan, Ameo Bastardo, Ammi Commun, Ammi Élevé, Ammi glaucifolium, Ammi Inodore, Ammi majus, Ammi Officinal, Bishop Weed: Most Hated Plants
How to Grow Goutweed
A fast-growing ground cover that can easily get out of control
Gemma Johnstone is a gardening expert who has written 120-plus articles for The Spruce covering how to care for a large variety of plants from all over the world. She’s traveled all over Europe, living now in Italy.
The Spruce / K. Dave
Several plant species are referred to as goutweed. The most popular is Aegopodium podagraria. This is a herbaceous perennial that works well as a shrubby, semi-wild ground cover option. It’s fast-growing, hardy, and low-maintenance.
The leafy, spreading foliage normally doesn’t grow much taller than 10 inches, but the flowering stalks that appear in early summer can shoot up much taller. Its small, white flower umbels aren’t particularly ornamental, and some people simply cut the flowering stalks back to prevent the ground cover from looking untidy.
It readily self seeds and its rhizomatous roots mean that it can be an aggressive spreader and difficult to eradicate once established. If you’re not careful, the leafy mounds could quickly take over your entire garden. Some regions classify it as an invasive species. If you do plan to plant goutweed, you might want to contain it to spots where other plants struggle to survive.
There’s a variegated variety of the plant that is known for being less invasive, and this tends to be the most popular choice in gardens.
The plant’s ability to grow in shady locations and a wide variety of soil types, make it a good option for cover under a group of trees. The spreading roots system can be helpful if you’re looking for plants to help tackle steep-sided soil erosion.
|Botanical Name||Aegopodium podagraria|
|Common Name||Goutweed, cow parsley, ground elder|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous, perennial|
|Mature Size||Flowering stems can grow to be up to 1m tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade, full shade|
|Soil pH||Acid, neutral, alkaline|
|Hardiness Zones||4-9 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Europe, Asia|
A lover of damp and shady conditions, goutweed is adaptable and can handle most soil types, urban pollution, and different moisture levels. This can be a blessing and a curse. It’ll grow where other plants won’t, but it can also take over your garden space in no time if not kept in check.
Ajava Seeds, Ajowan, Ajowan Caraway, Ajowan Seed, Ajowanj, Ajwain, Ajwan, Ameo Bastardo, Ammi Commun, Ammi Élevé, Ammi glaucifolium, Ammi Inodore, Ammi majus, Ammi Officinal, Bishop’s Flower, Bisnague, Bullwort, Carum, Espuma del Mar, Flowering Ammi, Grand Ammi, Omum, Yavani.
Bishop’s weed is a plant. The seeds are used to make medicine.
The prescription drug methoxsalen (Oxsoralen, Methoxypsoralen) was originally prepared from bishop’s weed, but it is now made in the laboratory. Methoxsalen is used to treat psoriasis, a skin condition.
Bishop’s weed is used for digestive disorders, asthma, chest pain (angina), kidney stones, and fluid retention.
Some people apply bishop’s weed directly to the skin for skin conditions including psoriasis and vitiligo.
Be careful not to confuse bishop’s weed (Ammi majus) with its more commonly used relative, khella (Ammi visnaga). The two species do contain some of the same chemicals and have some similar effects in the body. But Bishop’s weed is more commonly used for skin conditions, and khella is usually used for heart and lung conditions.
How does it work?
Bishop’s weed contains several chemicals, including methoxsalen, a chemical used to make a prescription medication for the skin condition psoriasis.
Uses & Effectiveness
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for.
- Skin conditions such as psoriasis and vitiligo.
- Digestive problems.
- Chest pain.
- Kidney stones.
- Fluid retention.
- Other conditions.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
There isn’t enough information to know if bishop’s weed is safe. When taken by mouth, bishop’s weed might cause nausea, vomiting, and headache. Some people are allergic to bishop’s weed. They can get a runny nose, rash, or hives. There is also some concern that bishop’s weed might harm the liver or the retina of the eye.
Bishop’s weed can cause skin to become extra sensitive to the sun. This might put you at greater risk for skin cancer. Wear sunblock outside, especially if you are light-skinned.
Special Precautions & Warnings
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It’s UNSAFE to use bishop’s weed if you are pregnant. It contains a chemical called khellin that can cause the uterus to contract, and this might threaten the pregnancy.
It’s also best to avoid using bishop’s weed if you are breast-feeding. There isn’t enough information to know whether it is safe for a nursing infant.
Liver disease: There is some evidence that bishop’s weed might make liver disease worse.
Surgery: Bishop’s weed might slow blood clotting. There is a concern that it might increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using bishop’s weed at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 [CYP3A4] substrates)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Bishop’s weed might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking bishop’s weed along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking bishop’s weed, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver.
Some medications changed by the liver include lovastatin (Mevacor), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), fexofenadine (Allegra), triazolam (Halcion), and many others.
Medications that can harm the liver (Hepatotoxic drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.
Bishop’s weed might harm the liver. Taking bishop’s weed along with medication that might also harm the liver can increase the risk of liver damage. Do not take bishop’s weed if you are taking a medication that can harm the liver.
Some medications that can harm the liver include acetaminophen (Tylenol and others), amiodarone (Cordarone), carbamazepine (Tegretol), isoniazid (INH), methotrexate (Rheumatrex), methyldopa (Aldomet), fluconazole (Diflucan), itraconazole (Sporanox), erythromycin (Erythrocin, Ilosone, others), phenytoin (Dilantin), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), simvastatin (Zocor), and many others.
Medications that increase sensitivity to sunlight (Photosensitizing drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.
Some medications can increase sensitivity to sunlight. Bishop’s weed might also increase your sensitivity to sunlight. Taking bishop’s weed along with medication that increases sensitivity to sunlight could increase the chances of sunburn, blistering, or rashes on areas of skin exposed to sunlight. Be sure to wear sunblock and protective clothing when spending time in the sun.
Some drugs that cause photosensitivity include amitriptyline (Elavil), Ciprofloxacin (Cipro), norfloxacin (Noroxin), lomefloxacin (Maxaquin), ofloxacin (Floxin), levofloxacin (Levaquin), sparfloxacin (Zagam), gatifloxacin (Tequin), moxifloxacin (Avelox), trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Septra), tetracycline, methoxsalen (8-methoxypsoralen, 8-MOP, Oxsoralen), and Trioxsalen (Trisoralen).
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant/Antiplatelet drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.
Bishop’s weed might slow blood clotting. Taking bishop’s weed along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
The appropriate dose of bishop’s weed depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for bishop’s weed. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
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Bishop Weed: Most Hated Plants
I’d like to dedicate this post to my blogging friend, Carol at Flower Hill Farm, for her long-suffering with this invasive plant, her nemesis, Bishop Weed, also known as Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria).
But first, a disclaimer. I call this ongoing series “Most Hated Plants,” but some have taken issue with “hating” poor defenseless plants. Most Hated Plants is really a shorhand way of saying:
- I don’t really hate the plants.
- I do hate that nurseries continue to propagate and sell these plants
- I hate that landscapers continue to install them
- And I hate that people continue to plant them
- Invasive plants are wiping out native habitats leaving wildlife no place to go
- Invasive plants cost taxpayers $138 BILLION dollars every year
- I really would like to see homeowners do their homework prior to purchasing ANY plant
But instead of saying all of that every time I refer to the damage caused by invasive plants, I simply say MOST HATED PLANTS as my short hand.
Bishop Weed is native to Europe, northern Asia, and Siberia and was brought to this country as an ornamental plant. It was first noticed to have escaped cultivation and become invasive in Rhode Island in 1863.
Also known as Goutweed, it wreaks havoc in moist, partly shaded woodlands and disturbed areas. It forms a dense mat that prohibits other plants from establishing.
This trait is especially harmful in natural wooded areas where it outcompetes native plants. Because of this, many native woodland plants are now highly endangered.
I’ve been attempting to rid my property of this plant since 2001 when I first moved in. It feels like a losing battle because it returns with a vengeance especially after the rain. We pull, and we pull, and then we pull some more. But it always comes back.
That’s because Bishop Weed not only spreads by seed, it also spreads by underground runners. If you’re pulling but don’t get every last piece of those runners out of the ground, it will pop up again almost immediately.
My neighbor across the street is the head propagator for Morris Arboretum. Her garden is her own beautiful private botanic garden. Really, it’s stunning! But she has been battling Goutweed for the 30 years she’s lived in her house. Trust me, she REALLY hates this plant!
Risa Edlestein, my blogging buddy at Garden and the Good Life, has started a discussion on the best ways to eliminate this invasive plant from the landscape at the Ecological Landscaping Association Group on LinkedIn.
It is banned for sale in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont, and is considered a noxious pest from Eastern Canad to Georgia and into the midwest, plus is invasive in the Pacific Northwest.
A much better alternative to this noxious, invasive plant is the native Golden Alexanders (Zizea aurea), in the same family as Bishop Weed, but a much gentler inhabitant of native ecosystems, and a host plant for Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.
So, Carol, this one’s for you, in hopes that you will make headway in this battle!