Today's “Plant of the Day” is probably one of the most unpopular herbs for gardeners. It's Aegopodium podagraria L. from the Apiacae (or Umbelliferaceae) family. In English, this plant is best known as “Ground elder”, while in Germany it has many names like “Geißfuß” “Ziegenfuß (goat foot)” or “Dreiblatt (three leaves)” but the most common name for this plant in my homeland is “Giersch”.
A. podagraria - habitus
It's a herb, that can reach heights until 1 metre (or 3,3 feet). The stalk is bald and furrowed, while the leaves are pinnate and divided into 2 or 3 small leaflets. Each leaflet is oval to egg-shaped with a fine serrated leaf-edge. The plant is known for its underground stolons, that makes the plant to a persistent weed, which is very difficult to control.
A. podagraria - leaf
The inflorescence is an umbel, which is typical for the Apiaceae (remember, that each “umbel” is in fact a double-umbel). Each umbel consists of 15 to 25 small umbels. As with most Apiacae, the flowers of A. podagraria has white petals, while the ripe fruits are egg-shaped.
A. podagraria - umbel
A. podagraria is the only species of the genus Aegopodium, that is native to Middle Europe, but you can also find it in North America as neophyte. It likes nutrient-rich soils and shady places. As already mentioned, it's a very persistent weed, because of its stolons. Through this, the plant is able to cover large areas. On the other side, A. podagraria is also used as spice plant in the kitchen and even as medicinal plant against gout and rheumatism.
A. podagraria - umbels
A. podagraria - leaves