Glechoma hederacea (Ground Ivy)

Plant Info
Also known as: Creeping Charlie, Gill-over-the-Ground
Family:Lamiaceae (Mint)
Life cycle:perennial
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, shade; thickets, disturbed soil, lawns
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:5 to 8 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: whorled

[photo of flowers] 2 to 4 short-stalked flowers arising from leaf axils in the upper plant. Flowers are irregular, tubular, about ½ inch long, light blue to deep purple-blue or reddish-purple. The upper lip is notched and extends out, the lower lip is 3-lobed with dark spots and streaks on the large center lobe. The hairy calyx is green to purplish and forms a slender tube, tipped with 5 slightly flaring, sharply pointed lobes.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are round or kidney-shaped with scalloped edges, to 1½ inches wide and 1 inch long on stalks up to ¾ inch long. Leaves have deep veins and are sometimes tinged with purple.

[photo of leaf node] The leaf nodes are often fringed with long, white hairs. Stems are square, mostly hairless, many branched, erect to prostrate and creeping, rooting at the nodes and creating dense mats.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

Fruit is a dark nutlet.


Ground Ivy is an aggressive weed of lawns, gardens, roadsides, shores, woodlands and thickets.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Natasha - Forest Lake
on: 2010-01-13 19:34:08

This one crept into my backyard a couple years ago, and suddenly last season I noticed it had pretty much taken over the whole thing! I live by water, so was pulling by hand. What a tough job, and I was only able to keep up enough to contain it and keep it from spreading further.

I see it a lot in Forest Lake yards. There's a local compost here, where you can take the nice black dirt after it's been through the process. I'm sure people dump it, and it ends up in others' back yards.

I remember the smell of this plant from playing in my grandma's backyard in Owatonna when I was a kid.

Posted by: Portia - Elk River
on: 2010-07-27 12:08:21

We had this stuff all around the edges of our yard at our old house in Elk River, but we called it creeping charlie. My siters would bring me big handfuls to braid into fairy crowns.

Posted by: Sonja - McGrath
on: 2010-12-09 10:46:28

We also refer it this plant as Creeping charlie. I am glad to see its a NX now I will not feel bad about yanking it out. Its very difficult to keep up with, I would like to avoid using harsh chemicals but vinegar and pulling the weeds isnt doing that much good.

Posted by: Petyer
on: 2011-02-26 20:59:52

It is unavoidable that use of chemicals comes up in dealing with aggressive non-natives. Ultimately cost/benefit comes into play. While most conservationists are familiar with Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" that brought to discussion the impacts of chemicals such as DDT on native bird populations, the same harsh reality is coming into play as song bird populations are crashing as habitats are becoming overwhelmed by foreign plants (Doug Talamy - Bringing Nature Home). A well managed landscape that focuses on maintaining a diverse mix of native plants diminishes the needs for long term pesticide use while providing essential food a nesting resources for imperiled wildlife. If you are just going to acquiesce to a sterile blue grass lawn & a rocked in foundation planting - no don't use harsh chemicals - you are just adding insult to injury.

Posted by: Jane - Hennepin
on: 2011-05-28 12:53:43

Don't really understand what the fuss is about. I find mowing once to 1.5 inches gets rid of almost all the ground ivy (normally I would never mow that low). The remains are easily pulled. Plant natives (woodland-type near trees) to keep new growth in check. I have never seen it take hold in sunny tall grass areas, either.

Personally I think it's pretty, and the bees definitely love the stuff, too. So I don't mind having patches of it, and I wouldn't call them an "infestation", lol. Basically the only place where the ground ivy is somewhat aggressive is shaded monospecies lawn areas, where it competes successfully with the exotic grass. Having a thick and somewhat taller established lawn would probably help but in the end it's just the way grasses work, or don't work, near trees.

Some things I'd love to know is how its seeds respond to fire and how it does in the mow-less fescue mixes, the kind that curls over.

Oh and many, many thanks for the lovely site!

Posted by: Jane - Hennepin
on: 2011-05-28 13:46:05

This plant is *not* on the NX list. The last pages of the first link has the full list of secondary NXs:

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-05-28 19:37:34

Jane, I don't think anyone has claimed creeping charlie is a noxious weed - I know I haven't. It is nonetheless very much a non-native invasive species.

I suspect bees love creeping charlie because urbania/suburbia is so ecologically sterile that there isn't much else for them to feed on except weeds - they take what they can get. But creeping charlie is not just an urban weed that infests blue-grass lawns. It also invades woodlands.

There is some state forest land not far from the Metro that has some wonderful plant life, including Jacob's ladder, bloodroot, blue phlox, wild ginger, trilliums, and other beautiful native woodland species. It is a rich eco-system that is at serious risk of destruction. The last time we were there, just a week or so ago, many weed species were encroaching on it, primarily creeping charlie, day lilies, wild parsnip and buckthorn. These are all aggressive breeders. I fear the beautiful forest land will not survive their onslaught.

I'm curious... does this matter to you at all? BTW, I would have emailed you about this but you did not supply a valid email address.

Posted by: Diana - NE Minneapolis
on: 2011-08-06 21:22:16

This is the other terrible plant I battle. It, and campanula rapunculoides, are rampant on the slope up to my south property line. This may not be classified as an Invasive Species, but it is really strongly invasive. In lawns, in gardens, in woods. Again, if a plant type spreads, is virtually impossible to get rid of, and is not native to our area - it does not belong here. Thank you for this site - and the information on invasives and why we need to be outside noticing what's growing!

Posted by: Lisa - Coon Rapids
on: 2012-05-31 12:42:21

I always have small amounts of this in my yard, which I manage to keep in check by regular pulling. There are terrible infestations of this in Bison Creek Park (a Coon Rapids city park) just a couple blocks from me. There are masses of it crowding out the other vegetation on the woodland edge.

Posted by: Noelle Reiter - Ely
on: 2012-06-04 21:42:58

Along the Trazona Trail about a week ago.

Posted by: Amanda - Alexandria
on: 2012-12-11 11:26:27

This stuff is terrible and spreads at an incredible rate! It spread from the ditches along the road into our alfalfa field which fed our horse. Every year the alfalfa yield is smaller, and the horse won't touch the stuff, so it renders a portion of the field completely useless. I see no beauty in it!

Posted by: Julie - Little Canada
on: 2016-05-07 16:53:39

The entire city-owned boulevard & hill next to our house is covered with this stuff. I've been fighting it creeping into my lawn & gardens for years. I noticed today that the neighbor on the other side of me has it all over her lawn, so now I'm fighting it from both sides. Jane, your soil conditions must be a lot different than mine. If I leave one patch of it, it takes over everything, including the grass, in one season. I actually saw this plant for sale at a local greenhouse a few days ago!

Posted by: lucieaarl - Lake Shore, MN
on: 2016-05-10 22:35:22

This seems especially abundant in the yard this year. Since there is not too much in bloom for the bees yet, I don't find it too bad. It smells good and once we start mowing, it is not as noticeable. I think a neighbor actually planted it a few years ago. It seems to stick to the paths in wooded areas.

Posted by: Kristin - Woodbury
on: 2016-05-19 10:24:13

Ecological Threat: I am not sure where the woman who stated that Creeping Charlie is a "noxious weed" got her information from, but that statement is absolutely false. Although it is not native to Minnesota, it's ability to establish itself in our yards is NOT due to it being an "invasive species" but is rather due to the degradation that is caused by planting turf grass yards and using non-natives in landscaping. According to the MN DNR:

1. It is not a threat to healthy native plant communities.
2. Ground ivy grows best in semi-shaded to shaded moist soils and forms a dense mat, smothering other vegetation.
3. It is a common urban garden weed and grows mostly in disturbed, degraded places.
4. Ground ivy is found in most of the world of similar climate. It is known to have medicinal properties.

In my opinion, it is probably best to direct our energy toward re-establishing native species in our yards than trying to eradicate ground ivy with the goal of maintaining golf-course lawns.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-05-19 10:35:49

Kristin, totally agree about the golf-course lawns!

Posted by: ChrisDee - Mounds View
on: 2016-05-24 21:18:30

We bought a house with a poorly maintained yard and I've been fighting this weed for 8 years. Then I noticed it's one of the first bloomers and attracts bees so now I wonder if I should leave it since there's not much else to feed the early pollinators. Will someone please let me know if this is a wise decision? I am an organic gardener and I'd be willing to continue to pull it all out if someone could tell what other native early Bloomer to plant. Thank you!

Posted by: Julie - Crystal
on: 2017-05-17 15:10:21

I have researched this plant and have discovered it makes delicious mint tea. I have no doubt the leaves would be wonderful in a salad as an addition to other greens & nasturtium petals. I believe if more people knew how useful this plant was (apparently it can also be used to make beer!) - then 'Creeping Charlie' may suddenly find itself one day close to being eradicated.

Posted by: Angie - Eden Prairie
on: 2018-05-14 10:43:49

I agree with the above statements about it not being that bad of a plant. I also see TONS of native bees using it all spring long (it flowers for months!) and it's a useful "placeholder" plant that I utilize to keep worse weeds out while I attend to other parts of the yard. I've been converting to native gardening for 5 years now on my yard that borders on a wetland park - believe me, Creeping Charlie is WAY better than a field of garlic mustard/stinging nettle/thistle/buckthorn. Basically, I have yet to find a suitable groundcover that does what this plant does, and is also native. Until my wild ginger grows up and spreads itself around I'm using this attractive mint to serve as a protective barrier from the nasties.

Posted by: Grampa Bob - Nisswa
on: 2019-06-02 17:03:42

Terrible invader, creeping charlie, nasty, you will see this all over the US

Posted by: Deborah Goschy - Eagle Lake (near Mankato)
on: 2019-08-13 20:32:24

We can't afford to hire a lawn service and we have very fertile soil, so now my lawn is more creeping charlie than grass. I believe it's part of the mint family, which explains the fragrance when we pull it up.

Posted by: Sandra Weston - Fridley
on: 2020-02-13 17:17:09

My back yard is fenced and the yard is nearly solid creeping charlies and violas. Early spring it is a purple field and much to the consternation of the neighbors, I love it! It stays green in the drought, mows well when i can get around to it, does not look shaggy when I can't. Smells great too! I LOVE seeing the bees here when all around me are food deserts.

Posted by: Senchu Punyamurthula - Spring Lake Township,
on: 2020-05-22 22:03:11

I love these in my yard, a few in a shady area spread around, easy to propagate. I use it as a mulch around my trees. Bees love them!

Posted by: Bill Brown - Grant
on: 2020-06-21 20:34:15

I've concentrated on more noxious invasives but my admittedly disturbed woodland had also fallen victim to charlie. At 4,000 sq ft or so and expanding exponentially, it's becoming difficult to ignore and beyond pulling.

A comment on this thread states that it can't compete in a healthy woodland. It sure is thriving in mine, however. It's spreading from a relatively open area shaded only by canopy trees to dense shade beneath red elders, nettles, and enchanter's nightshade beneath the canopy. Recently, however, I am encouraged to see a few plants pierce its dense mat including, of course, the garlic mustard but also the enchanter's nightshade. Charlie has not yet retreated, however.

Is it reasonable to hope that natives, without or with my help, will eventually overcome the charlie? Will there be a limit to its spread? Can charlie persevere in a woodland if it establishes itself before the woodland has a chance to become healthy? Do I need to take action or will this problem take care of itself? Must the soil suffer a triclopyr cleanse to rid it of this near monoculture and ironically save its opportunity for a healthy future?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-06-22 06:39:46

Bill, do not expect the creeping charlie problem to resolve itself without interference from you. It will more likely continue spreading and out-compete most natives, especially considering you also have garlic mustard, which also inhibits natives.

Posted by: America Larez - White Bear Lake
on: 2021-04-15 10:53:01

It's the first plant blooming right now at the Birch Lake shore, that shown why it spreads so fast.

Posted by: Zoe Dirks - St Louis Park
on: 2022-05-23 08:52:44

This stuff is everywhere by the George Haun Trail at Bass Lake. It's very pretty though, I don't think it's causing much of a nuisance there.

Posted by: K - Kelly Lake
on: 2022-07-03 15:46:22

Grows in patches in my backyard. I would love for it to take over larger portions, specifically right outside my back door. It feels wonderful on bare feet and is beautiful to view.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-07-03 18:54:32

K, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by: Nadine - BLOOMINGTON
on: 2022-07-11 06:43:30

I have this growing and would rather have this in my yard, than the sticker weeds and stinging nettle. I find it curious that some complain that it doesn't belong here because it is non-native, But Native plants won't grow without lots of care.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-07-11 07:33:47

Nadine, it is not true that native plants won't grow without lots of care. My own residential gardens are full of different natives, and they grow fine with no assistance from me.

Posted by: Karen Schott - Excelsior
on: 2023-05-18 12:17:43

My neighbor has a swath of land next to my front yard. Both of our yards are landscaped/planted/tended...but she refuses to kill the creeping charlie which covers this particular area.. When it crosses the property line into my front yard I spray, carefully, that which has crossed over with Weed-b-Gone. Since the spray is systemic, it provides a kill-back several feet into her yard. She is upset by this...and will pull the creeping charlie from HER tended property line (on her side) but not from her property line on my side. Since this is an invasive species is there any regulation which can encourage her to be more pro-active?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-05-18 13:47:00

Karen, while creeping charlie can invade natural areas it is essentially a lawn weed and as such is not regulated. You need to work it out with your neighbor.

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