This is the time of the year when we start seeing the invasive Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria), also known as Bishop’s Weed and Snow-on-the-Mountain. It is is a creeping herbaceous perennial plant of the carrot family Apiaceae, and one of several species of Aegopodium, native to Europe and northern Asia to eastern Siberia (something else we can blame Russia for….).
I see it growing everywhere because it is so highly invasive. It is restricted in Wisconsin and many other states. Yet, just a few years I ago, I saw someone planting it in a newly landscaped yard — a donation from a caring friend or neighbor, no doubt!
Early European settlers brought it to America because it was used in salads and as a herb for soup. It was also used medicinally for gout and other rheumatic diseases such as arthritis and for some intestinal disorders.
There is a native Snow on the Mountain (Euphorbia marginata) which grows in the Great Plains. Although it is an annual species and looks a bit different from the invasive non-native Bishop’s Weed (Aegopodium podgraria), it too has has become known as a weed as it spreads east of Minnesota and west of the Rocky Mountains.
HOW DID IT GET IT’S NAME?
The genus, Aegopodium, is from the Greek words “agios” which means goat and “podion” which means little foot. Because the leaf resembles the shape of a goat’s foot, it was often called Little Goat Foot. The word Podagaria, however, is also Greek and means “gout of the foot.”
I’ve tried various ways to eradicate this plant, but it’s a tough customer. Unfortunately, systemic herbicides which contain glyphosate are the most effective, but we all know how dangerous that chemical can be. Non-glyphosate herbicides are ineffective because Goutweed leafs out quickly after defoliation. You have to be monitoring new growth continually or you’ll never get ahead of it. Digging it out is almost impossible unless you can diligently remove every speck of its rhizomatous root system. It thrives in the shade, but thankfully, it’s seeds typically don’t germinate except in a sunny location.
See also Poinsettia (Euphorbus)