Western Isles Wildflowers
Western Isles wildflowers is a collection of information about our Hebridean wildflowers including identification hints, traditional herbal uses and general plant lore.
Gaelic name : Lus an Easbaig
Ground elder has leaves like those of the elder tree and makes an attractive and effective ground-cover, particulary in shady parts of the garden.
It is the way these elder-like leaves cover a large patch of ground, and then send up the flowering stems that helps us identifty the ground elder from the other umbelliferae, which tend to just send up flowering stems. (Alexanders looks a bit like this before it's stems have gone up, but Alexanders has dark leaves and ground elder's are bright green)
In a single growing season ground elder can spread across a few square metres, sending up slender 2 foot tall stems carrying it's white umbelliferae flowers. It flowers May - July.
Gound elder has also been known as dog elder, goat's foot, devil's guts, housemaid's knee, white ash, gout-weed,bishop's weed, and seven-toed Jack.
It is not a popular plant, as it prefers cultivated land and once in, not only does ground elder quickly spread, but it is almost impossible to remove. There are records of ground elder roots growing 30 feet deep in the soil! Many of it's names refer to it's status as a garden menace.
Ground Elder is described a colonist in the Western Isles, it is not a native plant.
It does have uses to us, ground elder is a useful vegetable, it can be cooked and eaten as a spinach substitute (tangy but a bit stringy), and more importantly it is a treatment for gout and other associated disorders.
See other pictures of ground elder for identification purposes.
Photography © Suzanne Harris
Stornoway - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
19th June, 2007