14.5.14

NOTHING NEW ABOUT INVASIVE SPECIES.

At Quid Plura, we learn that Creeping Charlie used to be a cheap way of flavouring ale.
Meet Glechoma hederacea, the mint-like ground ivy called “creeping Charlie” in the United States and known, at least around my place, as “existence’s bane.” Rampant, sinister, nigh-unstoppable, this weed was brought to North America by early European settlers, who presumably appreciated its value as ground cover and its not-unpleasant scent.

Medieval people found Glechoma hederacea medicinally useful, as shown by a drawing of the stuff in a tenth-century manuscript from Constantinople. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you can buy a watch and other jewelry based on its depiction in a 15th-century woodcut, gifts apparently intended for people who’ve never torn intractable fistfuls of the stuff from the contumacious earth.

More interesting is its etymology in England, where it’s known as Gill-on-the-ground or, intriguingly, alehoof. Britten and Holland’s 1886 A Dictionary of English Plant-Names claims the word comes from “‘Ale-hoove,’ meaning that which will cause ale to heave,or work,” because in an era sans hops, the Anglo-Saxons used the plant to give their ale its bitterness.
I've heard that the stuff is common in the midwest because early farmers used it as chicken feed.  Whatever its provenance, it's only slightly less prolific than kudzu, a Southern invader whose presence at these latitudes may be another indicator of warming.

No comments: