Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria), also known as bishop’s weed or snow on the mountain, is a perennial groundcover native to Eurasia. It was introduced to North America as an ornamental plant in the early 1800s, but its aggressive behaviour has since led some regions in the United States to ban its sale. It still remains unregulated in Canada and can be found at some garden centres in Ontario. Often, it’s shared between well-meaning neighbours or friends.
Low-growing, goutweed has compound leaves consisting of three groups of two to three leaflets that can be green or variegated (green with a white edge). The variegated form is the more common variation. Wide, round clusters of tiny white flowers grow above the leaves in late spring and early summer.
Goutweed spreads aggressively through underground rhizomes, but can also spread by seed. Plants that grow from seed have solid green leaves and are more aggressive than the variegated form.
It grows well in a variety of conditions, including poor, dry soil and shade, and it’s often planted in hard-to-grow areas like beneath a tree or the space between a shed and a fence. Unfortunately, it can quickly take over a garden, sneak onto a neighbour’s property or spread into nearby natural areas. Goutweed’s dense mat of roots overtake native plants, reducing biodiversity, food sources for wildlife and climate change resilience.
Avoid planting goutweed or any other invasive groundcover like periwinkle or lily-of-the-valley. There are beautiful, native alternatives that will do well in those hard-to-grow areas. If you have a bit of sun, try wild strawberry, barren strawberry or prairie smoke. For shade, choose wild ginger, heart-leaved foam flower or heart-leaved aster.
Continue reading to learn what steps you can take to remove goutweed if you find it in your yard.