What’s in a name-Ground Ivy ?

It’s called Runaway-robin, Catsfoot,Tunhoof,Alehoof,Creeping Charlie,Gill over the ground,Haymaid – these are all common names for Glechoma hederacea-Ground Ivy.

Even though the name Ground IVY gives the impression it is part of the Ivy family it isn’t. It is part of the mint family , it looks more like a Dead Nettle. This family is called the LAMIACEAE ,an easy feature to identify this family of plants is their square stem.

Ground Ivy has kidney shaped leaves with a pretty scalloped edge. The leaves are often a reddish /purple at the top of stems. The plant is covered in short hairs which can be seen clearly in the photo above.

These small creeping plants are easily overlooked but they form colourful carpets across woodland edges and verges and are not fussy,flowering and brightening up waste ground areas.

Some interesting facts about this common plant:-

  • It smells of black currants or some say Tom cats …..CATSFOOT
  • The leaves were once used as a bitter flavour in beer until hops were used……ALEHOOF
  • A tiny plant with lots of names and uses .
  • Another intriguing name for the next find on the walk.. Robin’s Pincushion.
  • This is a picture of one which has been through the winter and is ready to release its inmates !
  • It is a gall called a Rose Bedeuar Gall , a Moss Gall or my favourite A Robin,’s Pincushion. I like the image of the Robin doing a little dress making with its pins sticking out of this !
  • This is one looking pink and pincushion like in the summer in deepest and beautiful Northamptonshire.The gall is caused by a gall wasp called Diploleptis rosae. Inside the pincushion there is more than one wasp larvae , each of the larvae has its own chamber. They overwinter in the gall and hatch out as adults in the Spring.These wasps reproduce without males in a process called PARTHENOGENESIS.
  • As the walk was at an end I was once again drawn to the beautiful lichen on the blackthorn twigs.
  • Today the weather has been T shirt one minute followed by Thunderstorms but the Spring is marching on.

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