I’d like to dedicate this post to my blogging friend, Carol at Flower Hill Farm, for her long-suffering with this invasive plant, her nemesis, Bishop Weed, also known as Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria).
But first, a disclaimer. I call this ongoing series “Most Hated Plants,” but some have taken issue with “hating” poor defenseless plants. Most Hated Plants is really a shorhand way of saying:
- I don’t really hate the plants.
- I do hate that nurseries continue to propagate and sell these plants
- I hate that landscapers continue to install them
- And I hate that people continue to plant them
- Invasive plants are wiping out native habitats leaving wildlife no place to go
- Invasive plants cost taxpayers $138 BILLION dollars every year
- I really would like to see homeowners do their homework prior to purchasing ANY plant
But instead of saying all of that every time I refer to the damage caused by invasive plants, I simply say MOST HATED PLANTS as my short hand.
Bishop Weed is native to Europe, northern Asia, and Siberia and was brought to this country as an ornamental plant. It was first noticed to have escaped cultivation and become invasive in Rhode Island in 1863.
Also known as Goutweed, it wreaks havoc in moist, partly shaded woodlands and disturbed areas. It forms a dense mat that prohibits other plants from establishing.
This trait is especially harmful in natural wooded areas where it outcompetes native plants. Because of this, many native woodland plants are now highly endangered.
I’ve been attempting to rid my property of this plant since 2001 when I first moved in. It feels like a losing battle because it returns with a vengeance especially after the rain. We pull, and we pull, and then we pull some more. But it always comes back.
That’s because Bishop Weed not only spreads by seed, it also spreads by underground runners. If you’re pulling but don’t get every last piece of those runners out of the ground, it will pop up again almost immediately.
My neighbor across the street is the head propagator for Morris Arboretum. Her garden is her own beautiful private botanic garden. Really, it’s stunning! But she has been battling Goutweed for the 30 years she’s lived in her house. Trust me, she REALLY hates this plant!
Risa Edlestein, my blogging buddy at Garden and the Good Life, has started a discussion on the best ways to eliminate this invasive plant from the landscape at the Ecological Landscaping Association Group on LinkedIn.
It is banned for sale in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont, and is considered a noxious pest from Eastern Canad to Georgia and into the midwest, plus is invasive in the Pacific Northwest.
A much better alternative to this noxious, invasive plant is the native Golden Alexanders (Zizea aurea), in the same family as Bishop Weed, but a much gentler inhabitant of native ecosystems, and a host plant for Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.
So, Carol, this one’s for you, in hopes that you will make headway in this battle!
Recommended Invasive Plant Resources:
Invasive Plants: Guide to Identification and the Impacts and Control of Common North American Species
Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants
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I am learning to live with bishops weed. Most of my garden is made up of invasive plants at this point. They are battling it out. Phlox has become an invasive plant in the garden. At least it flowers during the summer.
If this is the bishops weed that is also called Ammi Visnaga… Then this is the healing herb that the medication Cromolyn Sodium was derived from. It alleviates allergies asthma and those with mastocytosis, A condition that causes overactive inflammation even without allergies. Maybe the plant is coming to you because she wants to help you or heal someone that you know and love. Maybe not, just an idea.
This is not a poor defenseless plant, no matter how hard you battle it Bishops Weed wins. A friend gave me a beautiful Day Lily from her garden back in 2006, it apparently had a small runner of Bishops Weed tangled in its root system and I have been battling it every since. It has completely taken over every flower bed in half my yard, it comes up thru the runners leading to my front steps, I’ve recently noticed it has spread to the property across the street. I do hate this plant more than I can describe here. It will be here long after I’m gone.
When I was new to gardening about 20 years ago, and trying to find shade-tolerant plants for my heavily wooded property, a friend offered me snow-on-the-mountain starts from her yard. I wish I'd known more about it and declined. It has taken over in all of my bedding areas and I can't see any way of getting rid of it without sacrificing all of my other perennials. For years I've been using a scuffle hoe on the foliage where possible but that doesn't seem to make much of a dent. I dread the prospect of having to dig up everything but fear that I have little choice, and then I wouldn't know what to do with all of that contaminated soil. Between this and trying to kill invasive honeysuckle bushes, I hardly have any time left for the enjoyment of gardening. I may eventually have to cover over everything with black plastic and new soil and mulch as I don't see any alternatives. It would be a massive effort and I'm not sure I'm up to it.
We got rid of it by constantly plucking the leaves. If it doesn't have leaves, it can't get energy from the sun. Any time we saw a leaf, we cut it off or plucked it. If there is a lot of it, can just chop it down with a weed eater. It took a couple years but it's almost completely gone because it starved to death.
I had a patch of bishops weed already here when I moved in almost 30 years ago. It looked nice in the area where it grew. I do not garden so this was an easy plant to care for. Last year nothing came up not one plant. I now have an ugly patch of dirt. I have bird feeders and a small group of pigeons started showing up. Last Spring they were walking in the dirt patch foraging. I wonder if they ate the new growth emerging from the soil killing the plants. Nothing is coming up this year. I will try the other plant you recommend.This is a very shady area between two Ponderosa pines. I don’t suggest you attract pigeons but perhaps you could borrow someone’s chicken and confine them to the Bishops weed when the buds first emerge from the soil? Assuming the pigeons were the cause of plants demise.
It is interesting what most hate is also loved by others.
In my Korean cuisine we love foraging in early spring and eat them. ???, pronounced, Cham na mul. Usually the first edible plant that peeks out of the soil, is a welcome sight! Use fresh and add to salad, or blanch quickly, rinse, squeeze and season. Yum!
Bishop's weed is a staple spice in Ethiopian cooking, especially in creating the signature berbere spice blend. If you've ever tried Ethiopia's honored dish: doro wat with injera, know that bishop's weed is a participant in creating that rich flavor you want over and again
Does anyone know if renting sheep or goats will clear BW? Or is this an exercise in futility because the runners are so insidious? Thanks!
Finally, I know what this tenacious weed is. I have been trying to get rid of it for 6 years since I bought my house, I think I've spent 2 of those years just pulling these darn things. I tried weed block-it just pushed up through it. Tried heavy tarps for a year-nope came right back. At least I know I am not alone with the struggle.
Thank you! After calling it sh*tweed for the past few years, I finally decided to find out what it's actually called. Thanks for the article. I hate this plant with the heat of 100 suns.
Great blog with interesting info on the plant I dislike the most. Have lived in my house in Virginia since 2003. Can’t get rid of this plant! It’s as bad as English ivy. The flowers are pretty sort of like Queens Ann’s Lace. No matter what it comes back.
I do agree with Johanna!
IF it’s possible for you, cover the areas with black plastic and wait a few years. It does work!
I have been watching Charles Dowding programs on No-Dig gardening and have done vegetable garden right on the top of thinck goutweed, mint & spiderwort, placing on top of them thick multiple layers of brown cardboard and then 12” compost. IF anything comes up you exhaust the root system just by simply pulling of the leaf or trying to pull it out as much as possible, but it’s not like digging and pulling them constantly, which disturbs soil and encourages other weed seeds to sprout.
It works great!
Again, depriving weeds from light is the best way, IF possible, because many people have established gardens, which would be sad to dig up and start from scratch.
All the best for gardeners out there!
Carole, A lovely person who recently visited my gardens and noted the vast carpet of bishop’s weed asked what it was. I told her and when she went home googled it. Your article came up and she was taken by the synchronicity. I have come to accept my fate and all the many shrubs and small trees are mostly ok with the pernicious plant. It is great that you continue to educate gardeners on native plants and sustainable gardens. Thank you!
I moved into this house almost three years ago and didn’t know I had a big patch of this bishop weed growing with black eye Susan among astilbe, garden phlox, butterfly weed, beardtongue. They got so tall covered everything which eventually die by the end of summer. I have been pulling them in the last year and a half. I made a mistake of transplant some black eye Susan with these weed in it to the back yard. Now they are spreading. I also gave them to my family too. I hate it so much I ended pulling the flowers off a big patch my neighbor had growing in her bed which is next to mine.
You are so right to hate this weed, anyone who thinks it’s otherwise is mad beyond help! I spray it constantly but still it emerges even when you use one that’s supposed to kill roots
New to this particular fight, not new to others!. I've been staying at a friends house who has beautiful gardens and a very healthy respect for native plants and omg so much bishops weed! I used to have 25/acres of vegetables and 5//of strawberries and this is a tough one. I've been clearing a half an acre for 2 months now!
Here's a contrary opinion as I have small areas of shade in my garden where nothing else will grow. Rather than blank dirt, I prefer Bishops Weed as I like how it lightens up shady areas. It doesn't spread that much and it's a distressed area no other plant likes. So, for that purpose I believe there is a place for this plant. It is not in a place where it can spread to a neighbor or a wooded area. At the very least, if one likes the looks of the plant, as I do, it can be kept in a pot.
For the past 16 years I've been battling BW----and grudgingly admiring its tenacity! I con't even want to think how many days of my life I've spend pulling, digging. This IS an amazing plant and it had been growing for decades in a large patch in our yard.
Finally, I had had enough. Five years ago we cleared the ground and covered it with two layers of heavy black plastic. On top of that, a deep layer of brown mulch. On top of that, lovely pots of flowers and hostess, and a piece of sculpture. So there!
This autumn we will pull it all apart again, pull away the plastic, and restore the soil underneath, on the theory that not even Bishops Weed can survive five years without light and water.
What do you think, fellow gardeners? Will it, like the TERMINATOR, be back?
I moved here 27 years ago and we had zero landscaping and little money so I began to transplant from friends and relatives. I planted a few bishop weed plants in their variegated form and thought they looked nice. Within a few years it reverted to its ugly green self and has invaded every space in my yard I pull it daily to keep it from wiping out the rest of my beautiful flowers. There is no getting rid of it... I have tried everything though the years.
I fought this battle of hand-pulling for several years to no avail. I’ve joked that this plant would survive a direct hit from a nuclear bomb. What it (mostly) doesn’t survive is the Roundup for poison ivy.
I don't know which is worse - Bishop Weed or Artemisia. I fought a losing battle with both for 28 years before we moved to a house with both variegated and green artemisia -- no bishop weed thankfully. The battle continues ....
I have been fighting this invasive weed for 15 yrs , I brought it from my mom's house and today I saw all the black swallow tail caterpillars for the first time...I finally feel better about having this weed,stopped weeding my hill today.
I tried a pinterist concoction of 1/4 salt, squirt of dawn dish liquid, and whole bottle of white vinegar. granted it did kill everything....including the bishop week. Just noticed first time in yard this year. Neighbor shared that she has battled for decades...now I know where it came from.
but the mix does work to kill it, however, we do keep checking to see if it comes back...and so far, that's a no
I have spent so many nice days over the years trying to control this "evil weed" that I have decided to turn my side yard (used to be nice flower garden) back into grass. All the beautiful days that I should have been enjoying my flowers and planting new ones were spent pulling this weed. When I saw it for sale at Lowes last year I felt like screaming - instead I emailed them and complained about what an invasive plant it was. (Didn't make me feel any better but it does help to know there are others with the same nemesis)Thanks!
Of planting variegated bishop weed in my zone 9 northern California yard 20 years ago. I pretty quickly realized my mistake and planted a miniature comfrey to surround the bishop weed, and hand pulled the variegated plant. It took about three years to wrench back control, and even now 20 years later I still see a sprout of bishop weed. Truly evil that plant. The comfrey is a spreading mat that is easily controlled, looks great, tolerates drought and shade.
Previous homeowners were thinking "wow! I planted that and look at it grow! I don't even have to do anything!"
I've replaced the overgrown beds of bishop's weed on my new property with native plants and non-invasives. Unfortunately my neighbors don't garden and so the weed tries to come under the fence again from their yard to mine.
How I did it on my own property though, was I uprooted all the bishop's weed right before winter, let nature freeze everything for a few months, and then in spring I uprooted anything that was left. I only see it pop up next to the fence where it's trying to invade from the neighbor's yard. You have to be diligent and go through each block of earth and sift through to find the nodes underground. They don't go that deep (a foot or less) so it just takes a little time.
Of course if you have a whole infested lawn it's going to take much longer... I would have the lawn dug up and re sodded.
I'm pretty sure this is what is all over my garden. I've spend days digging out the roots and I'm not even half way through my garden. Do you have any tips for organic methods to get rid of it? I agree, this stuff is awful! I also have Japanese Knotweed. Not sure what the previous owners of my property were thinking, but my summer looks to be backbreaking! Thanks!