Something Old, Something New


This pretty little garden weed, which goes by the names Ground-ivy, Gill-over-the-ground, Creeping Charlie, or Field Balm (Glechoma hederacea) is one of the first plants I learned the name of when I was a kid. It grew at the edges of my dad’s garden in West Virginia … and it grows today in our garden in Bellingham on the other side of the continent. The name I use most often is Gill-over-the-ground because that’s how I first learned it, but out here in the west I don’t hear many people using that name.

Ground-ivy isn’t native to either the Appalachians or the Pacific Northwest; it’s another of many plant introductions from Eurasia.

Ground-ivy blossom

When I was weeding one of our perennial beds a few days ago I deliberately left a small patch of Gill-over-the-ground because I rather like this plant for its blue-purple flowers early in the spring. A little later, after the “more desirable” plants in the garden get bigger then I’ll yank it out. This is one of those weeds that are rather easy to pull, even though it’s a perennial with somewhat fibrous roots.


Glechoma hederacea is also one of the first flowers I photographed. The photo above was made on Kodachrome film in 1972, the year I graduated from high school. I had a 50mm macro lens and a set of extension tubes for my Canon. Although I didn’t keep a record, I’m sure from the size of the flower in the frame that I used an extension tube and was working very close to the blossom for this photo.

Corn Speedwell

The other little blue-flowered weed I photographed yesterday is a plant that I don’t recall ever seeing previously, and definitely hadn’t photographed. When I looked it up this morning to put a proper caption on my images I found that it is Corn Speedwell, Veronica arvensis. When I first spotted the plant, which was growing next to our compost bin, I had to look closely to see that it was in bloom.

Corn Speedwell

The flowers of Corn Speedwell are tiny — only a little more than 1/8″ across — so they’re easy to miss. If the plant was mixed in among other ground-hugging plants it would be hide easily. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never noticed it before, even though I found it growing less than 25 feet from our back door.

Corn Speedwell is an annual weed, introduced from Eurasia like Gill-over-the-ground. It has a taproot, but as an annual that doesn’t go particularly deep into the soil so it’s another weed that is easy to remove. It also doesn’t seem to be very prolific, so I’m not going to worry too much about this one in our garden.

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