Common Names

Ground ivy is also known by the following English names: Gill-over-the-ground, haymaids, creeping charlie, robin-runaway, hedge maids.


Ground ivy is a low, creeping and trailing, hairy, perennial herb, with round, scalloped leaves, green on both sides, one to two inches wide, their short stalks placed opposite one another on the square stem. The light blue corolla is three times the length of the hairy calyx. The whole flower is only about half an inch long and not so wide. The plant is in bloom from April until May or June.


It has been introduced from Europe and is common in waste places, on damp or shady ground about doorways and neglected gardens. In the East it is found from Newfoundland to Ontario. It is common in British Columbia.

Poisonous Properties

Like the catnip (N. Cataria L.) ground ivy contains a volatile oil and bitter principle.

Animals Affected

A fatal case (1915) of the poisoning of two horses was reported to us from Prince Edward Island. The horses ate the weed early in November when it afforded an abundance of fresh green in contrast to the surrounding herbage. Our correspondent says: "The horses panted continually. One lived for five days, the other eight days. One would lie down occasionally, the other would not lie down. One ate the plant till it died, the other refused to eat anything."

H. C. Long quotes a case which came before the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries (England) in 1906, in which three horses became ill with symptoms of poisoning, and the "only weed found in the lucerne they were getting was ground-ivy, and this was suspected but not proved to be the cause. In a further case, reported in 1909, eleven horses were believed to have been poisoned by this weed, and in one of the dead horses scarcely any food but ground-ivy was found, and to it the veterinary surgeon in attendance attributed death."

J. Ferenchazy (1914) reports a case of poisoning of nine horses, and states that ground ivy "has occasioned no trouble in cattle and sheep that consumed it."


The symptons of poisoning in horses as given by Ferenc-hazy are "anxious look, dyspnoea, salivation, sweating, dilation of the pupils, cyanosis, signs of pulmonary oedema."

Remedy and Means of Control: On small patches the tops of the plant may be easily raked off and destroyed. A shallow layer of the soil may then be overturned to expose the numerous creeping rootstocks in hot dry weather. The weed does not long persist on well-cultivated land.


Ground Ivy.

Photo - F. Fyles.

Ground Ivy.