Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Bishop's Weed, Goutweed, Ground Elder
Aegopodium podagraria

Family: Apiaceae (ay-pee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Aegopodium (ee-guh-POH-dee-um) (Info)
Species: podagraria (pod-uh-GRAR-ee-uh) (Info)

7 members have or want this plant for trade.

View this plant in a garden


12-18 in. (30-45 cm)
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade
Partial to Full Shade
Full Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; direct sow after last frost
By simple layering

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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There are a total of 11 photos.
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3 positives
4 neutrals
13 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative pmmGarak On Dec 30, 2014, pmmGarak from Gppingen
Germany wrote:

Invasive and annoying, as most of the comments say. I do like the taste, but you just can't eat it at the rate it grows. In my area, the propagation through seeds works just as well as the root thing, so unless i'd get my neighbors to join the battle.... most positive thing I can say: it forces me to keep my soil deeply loosened from pulling up that stuff.

Negative cazort On Aug 5, 2014, cazort from Jenkintown, PA wrote:

This is probably on my top 10 list of most hated plants. It is extremely aggressive, spreading by underground roots. Thankfully, it does not seem to spread well by seeds. But it spreads quickly and shuts out other plants. It seems to grow equally well in sun and shade, and it is most aggressive in rich soils.

As an alternative or replacement, I recommend honewort, Cryptotaenia canadensis. This plant is superior in many ways--it is native, edible (Goutweed has some medicinal uses but is probably not as good as a food), and does not spread horizontally as aggressively.

Negative coriaceous On Feb 25, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

A noxious weed here in Massachusetts, spreading both by seed and underground by stolons. In the garden, this is a nasty thug, hard to control and almost impossible to eradicate.

If you're trading divisions of perennials from your garden and you also grow this, please warn your trading partners.

Here in Massachusetts, its trade, sale, transport, and planting are illegal, because of the damage it does to natural areas. Likewise in one other state. Vermont has declared it a noxious weed. According to the USDA, this species has become an invasive problem in natural areas in 29 states and 7 provinces.

I've had some success in killing this with repeated applications of 2% glyphosate.

Negative Rickwebb On Feb 15, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

One of the worst weeds of all time! Invades all around it, getting into everything. Difficult to dig out because of so many thin white horizontal roots all through the ground. This green mother form often appears in the white variegated goutweed 'Snow-on-the-Mountain' and out competes its cultivar. Must constantly attack it all season to kill it off. Round-Up on new young foliage may work; otherwise, not.

Negative dianeDMT On Nov 21, 2012, dianeDMT from East Norriton, PA wrote:

Horrid plant. Constant battle. Spent past 2 days, 10 hrs total trying to make a dent in this weed in my perennial beds. After reading many blogs and sites pertaining to this weed, am going to try newspapers, cardboard and mulch. I grows very well is S.E. PA.

Negative bombtheyard On May 15, 2012, bombtheyard from Fairmount, NY wrote:

Highly invasive and highly annoying! Spreads everywhere - across walkways, driveways, even the road - and is impossible to eradicate. I've done everything mentioned here to get rid of it, and it still comes back, and trying to get rid of it just seems to make it spread more. I could never figure out if the flowers just happened to smell like cat pee or if they just attracted every cat in the neighborhood, but finally just reached the point where I cut everything down before it has a chance to flower. I am at my wit's end with it. FYI, if you think you can "contain" it with borders or edging, plan on digging deep. I've already tried going a foot deep with no luck.

Neutral zlaugh On Oct 18, 2010, zlaugh from Munsonville, NH wrote:

I eradicated Bishop's weed from my garden by pushing the pH to an extreme with fertilizer, then after the Bishop's weed was dead I rebalanced the garden soil with fresh organic pH balanced soil. Here's how I did this. In Spring remove plants that you want to keep alive. Set them aside and do not replant them in an uninfected part of the garden because any small bit of Bishop's weed hidden in the roots of your desirable plants will reappear. So carefully remove the infidel Bishop's Weed roots from your desirable plants. Honestly, it's probably best to throw them out instead of risking having them harbor the BW's roots. Okay, now we get to the fun part. To KILL the armies of Bishop's Weed in your garden, spread 1/4 -1/2 inch layer of Urea fertilizer, (also known as 46-0-0) over the Bishop's weed. In a week or two you will gleefully see the weeds turning black and decomposing very quickly. Let them die without disturbing the soil. In a month inspect the area for survivors and spread another 1/4 inch layer. Repeat this until there are no survivors. Then, dig up the soil and remove every slight vestige, bag them, and throw them in a blast furnace. Leave the turned over soil alone for a few week. Then inspect for die hard roots. Once all the BW roots are gone, balance the soil by mixing in nice organic soil. The garden is ready for the plants you DO want. If a Bishops weed reappears, douse it with Urea right away, and repeat in a week or two. It took me three years to have my flower garden 99% free of the dreaded Bishop's weed. It has been clear for five years now. --Z from southern NH

Positive BendOregon On Jul 14, 2010, BendOregon from Bend, OR wrote:

Here in Bend, Oregon - this plant/ground cover is delightful! It is deer resistant, shade & partial shade loving - hard to find for this area as most deer resistant plants are full sun. It's variegated cream & pastel green leaves provide interest and are visually cooling, with a nice texture.

I have a large brick3-sided planter that backs up to of rear of home. Have no problem with it out growing the planter box (aprox 30 ft X 5 ft) or spreading to grass lawn below/other plant areas near by. It is also in one spot in front of the house under a large Ponderosa Pine Tree and it hasn't even grown all the way wround the tree. Both locations were planted by previous owners 8 years ago and doing well!

Something unusual is that a rhubarb looking very large leaf plant sprung up from wild recently and I am waiting to see if it is supspected Cow's Parsnip, Devil's Club, or indeed rhubarb. I read in one location that Bishops Weed & Cow's Parsnip sometimes grow in the same location. The soil where Bishops weed is growing is well drained and amended but often dry. We area at 4,000 ft elevation in the Cascade Mtns. I also read that caution in handling is recommended (wear gloves/protective clothing) for both Bishops Weed & Cow's Parsnip - to prevent possible allergic reaction. I see Bo9ishops Weed growing in gardens in town at 3,000 ft elevations and dong well plus seemingly well contained and . . . . . not eaten on by deer, rabbits, or chickens!

Positive dancingbear27 On May 16, 2009, dancingbear27 from Elba, NY (Zone 6a) wrote:

Yes, this can be invasive but it does make a beautiful lush ground cover. The flowers also look very attractive in bouquets. It is a nice plant for a bank that you do not want to mow.

Positive giftgas On Apr 29, 2009, giftgas from Everson, WA (Zone 7b) wrote:

Growing the "green" version of "Snow-On-The-Mountain" makes a bold statement about your personality - it's like shaving with a straight razor, when there are easier alternatives available.

One of only a handful of true "set it and forget it" plants out there.

Sadly, you'll have a hard time finding it, unless you are part of the small yet elite society of invasive plant lovers, known only as the "I.P.L."

Negative alwaysbloomin On Jul 9, 2006, alwaysbloomin from Central Point, OR wrote:

This plant came with my property and I have been battling it ever since we moved in 6 yrs ago. Nothing has seemed to work....I decided to go with raised beds and hauled in 10 yds. of top soil. It has now invaded several of those beds! NEVER plant this stuff!!! I may have to move to be rid of it.

Negative jesup On Apr 23, 2006, jesup from Malvern, PA (Zone 7a) wrote:

Could be Neutral only because it can look nice in some situations. Pretty flowers, solid groundcover (crowds other things out). Even total drought (ground cracked, virtually no rain for almost 2 months) can't kill it (it may die back and then leaf out again once it rains).

Incredibly invasive. You can weed it out of areas by repeated pulling, especially if you do it when the ground is soft. I have around 1/2-3/4 acre of it under trees; luckily in a woodland garden it kinda works, so long as you don't want anything else (shorter) there.

Positive: covers the ground. Reasonably attractive. Pretty flowers (helps to cut them after flowering). Unkillable.

Negative: spreads like crazy in loose/sandy soil. Smothers other plants up to ~12" tall. Roots break off (especially in hard/firm/packed soil) and sprout, even a year or more later. Unkillable.

I went around hitting some coming up in my mulch paths with roundup, along with some poison ivy. The ivy is dead. The Goutweed lost a leaf or two.

In loose soil, you can pull/sift it out of soil by hand, with work, and with lots of coming back to catch parts you missed.

Possible biological control: groundhogs. They love it. They have downsides, though. :-/

Negative sedum37 On Feb 1, 2006, sedum37 from Westford, MA (Zone 5b) wrote:

Definitely don't grow this plant. It is very, very invasive here in Massachusetts. This plant was introduced into my garden 14 years ago, so far I've contained it to a 2 ft x 2ft area but I cannot totally eradicate it. It came in attached to another plant via a division I received from a plant swap so I did not intentionally plant it!

On the list of invasive, prohibited plants in Massachusetts.

Negative pizzieisbest On Jun 17, 2005, pizzieisbest from Buffalo, NY wrote:

35 years ago, my Grandmother brought home one of these things and it took over the whole garden! My mother and I have battled this problem since 1983. I've tried round up, weed-be-gone, vinegar, gasoline, torch, torch+gasoline, and anything else you can imagine.

My aunt took something from our garden and got some bishops weed with it and now all of her neighbors have it,too!

Grandma's house and garden became a parking lot last fall, I'll check that lot later in the summer and let you know if ashphalt works against this evil creature!

Neutral Breezymeadow On May 4, 2005, Breezymeadow from Culpeper, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

My first home came with this plant staunchly entrenched in a winding bed along the front walkway. Since the soil was nothing but pure red clay studded with rocks, I found it amazing to see how lush the growth was.

Since I wanted flowers in that walkway bed, I tried - pretty much in vain - to eradicate the plant. What a task!! I did manage to - temporarily at least - weed out enough of it to get some bulbs & annuals in. Shortly thereafter we sold that house, & I have absolutely no doubt that the new owners probably ended up going thru the same battle.

I'm making this posting "Neutral" rather than "Negative", because 1) surprisingly enough, the plant never left the bed to encroach into the lawn, & 2) I think that if one had an obscure area with really poor soil, this plant might actually work. In its favor, it is quite colorful.

Negative pirl On May 4, 2005, pirl from (Arlene) Southold, NY (Zone 7a) wrote:

Both Goutweed and Houttneyea are terribly invasive. They go beyond "vigorus spreader" by far. I've turned over two entire garden plots and used a sifter to get the tiniest pieces of them out to no avail. I'm sure a torch would work, as suggested, but I just read that this morning. Goutweed pops up through my daylilies, Asiatic lilies, creeping phlox, sedums, etc. I can deal with lamium and some others but these two are a scourge and should only be planted in a cement lined pot within a garden surrounded by 3' deep cement.

Neutral paste592 On May 3, 2005, paste592 from Westminster, MD (Zone 6b) wrote:

There's no doubt this beautiful groundcover is a garden thug! However, I have found a way to control it to a particular area. After trying barriers, which worked to some extent, and all the weed sprays, which also worked to a minor extent, I did find the method that really keeps it under control! ~~ A propane torch~~
Since using the torch on this plant, I also tried it on the equally pretty and invasive groundcover, houttuynia. In late fall, when Bishop's weed is the only green thing left, burn it, then turn it under and burn the roots.

Negative CatskillKarma On Oct 2, 2004, CatskillKarma from West Kill, NY wrote:

My house came with this plant overwhelming all the garden beds. I religiously comb the soil every spring and fall, trying to remove it, and never make any headway. In fact, I think weeding only makes it more vigorous! I did eliminate it from one bed by spraying with Round-up three times in succession, mulching heavily, and continuing to weed new sprouts. That was two years ago, and new sprouts still emerge weekly.
The Bishop's weed remains green after all other plants have died back for the winter--usually until covered by snow. The blossoms are pretty and make great cut flowers, but it is by far the most invasive plant I have ever dealt with. In beds that I haven't been willing to completely kill with Round-up, I try to remove all blooms from the Bishop's Weed so that it is limited to spreading by runners, not seed as well. In my experience, this plant loves disturbed ground and will not grow in undisturbed areas--which means it is largely confine to my garden beds. grrrrrrrrr.

Negative phloxlove On Sep 30, 2004, phloxlove from Princeton, MA wrote:

Bishop's Weed started out as a few leaves in one of my gardens piggybacking on a plant given to me by a "friend". It has now taken over quite a bit of my gardens forcing me to remove every plant and painstakingly removing every bit of its roots from around the plants I want to save. Most of the plants that are surrounded by this noxious weed succumb. It sucks all the moisture out of the ground storing it in its roots and starving anything next to it. The roots turn from tan to fat white spaghetti like strands when the area is watered. If left alone it spreads relentlessly, even taking over grassy areas.

I have divided my gardens into contaminated ones and those that are uncontaminated. I am presently turning over all the soil in one garden after another trying to sift out the roots and then applying a thick layer of mulch to the soil. I am constantly looking for the leaves to pop up again from a root I did not find. I think it can be eliminated but I am looking at years of work to eliminate this horror. I really loathe it!

Neutral Baa On Apr 21, 2003, Baa wrote:

A rhizomatous perennial from mainland Europe, Asia and parts of Russia, widely naturalised.

Has toothed, bright to deep green, divided leaves. Bears flat heads (umbels) of tiny white flowers.

Flowers May to August.

Loves a moist soil in light shade but will tolerate drier soils.

This plant is extremely invasive and persistent, many gardeners spend years battling against its encroachment. The rhizomes are brittle and break very easily, each bit of rhizome can effectively make a new plant in a short time.

Quite apart from its invasiveness the young leaves were once cooked and eaten and was also thought to cure gout. Not recommended, as always if you're going to try these things, ensure you have the right plant, some of its relatives are incredibly poisonous.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Auburn, Alabama
Wethersfield, Connecticut
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Sparks, Nevada
Munsonville, New Hampshire
Binghamton, New York
Buffalo, New York (2 reports)
Elba, New York
Norwood, New York
Southold, New York
Syracuse, New York
Bucyrus, Ohio
Bend, Oregon
Central Point, Oregon
Malvern, Pennsylvania
Millerstown, Pennsylvania
Norristown, Pennsylvania
Port Matilda, Pennsylvania
Pottstown, Pennsylvania
Reading, Pennsylvania
Warminster, Pennsylvania
Eglon, West Virginia
Deerfield, Wisconsin

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