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Bishop's Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria)

Also known as bishop's weed, goutweed.

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An herbaceous perennial, native to Europe, which spreads aggressively, forming large colonies, by underground rhizomes. Escaped from cultivation at various locations across North America, mostly in the northeast, where it is considered invasive.

USDA Plants Profile for Aegopodium podagraria

Illinois Wildflowers Page for Aegopodium podagraria

Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) Article for Aegopodium podagraria

Description & Identification

A patch-forming herbaceous plant. Basal leaves doubly-compound leaves usually divided into three sets of three, sometimes with some of the leaflets fused. Leaflets serrate or doubly-serrate. Upper leaves on flowering stalks becoming trifoliate to lobed to simple.

Flowers white.

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Prefers partly-shaded, average to moist habitats, and loamy soils with high nitrogen content, possibly including some clay or sand. Tolerates heavy shade, but cannot reproduce by seed under such conditions. More tolerant of erosion and drought than many plants that prefer similarly moist, shaded conditions. Tolerates temporary flooding.

In North America, moist deciduous woodlands adjacent to suburbs or grown up on old farmsteads or abandoned property where this plant had been planted. Widespread near human development, especially suburbs, but uncommon in more remote areas.

Life Cycle

This plant spreads vegetatively by underground rhizomes, forming large colonies that often shut out most other plants. Blooms late spring to mid-summer, with seed maturing in the autumn. Seeds mostly fall close to the parent plants, but germination is typically negligible under the partly-shaded conditions in which this plant typically grows.

Seeds require high-light conditions to germinate and typically only germinate in response to disturbance that exposes the area to more light. In North America, reproduction is primarily vegetative.

Can spread aggressively by vegetative reproduction both in gardens and wild areas.


Widely planted as a groundcover for shady areas, where it is valued for its ability to thrive in a partly-shaded garden setting, and its ability to quickly cover a large area and shut out unwanted plants. Its usage has decreased due to its invasive nature.

A cultivar exists with variegated white and green leaves. However, variegated plants frequently revert back to the all-green form, which grows more vigorously and usually displaces the variegated plants.

Young leaves are edible, and were historically eaten as a food, although are rarely eaten nowadays. The common name "goutweed" refers to the fact that this plant was eaten as a treatment for gout.

This is the only Aegopodium species found in North America; the genus is native only to Europe and western Asia, where it has about seven species.

There are two others plants of the Careae tribe of the Apiaceae family in North America, but both are introduced: Carum carvi (Caraway), and Falcaria vulgaris (Sickleweed).

The broader Apioideae subfamily contains yet more species, including the introduced Conium maculatum (Poison hemlock), and the genus Conioselinum, with several native species, including the misleadingly-named Chinese hemlock-parsley (Conioselinum chinense), which is native to North America.

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