Ground Ivy, Creeping Charlie, or Gill-Over-the-Ground, is a foreign invader, and for grass purists it’s a hated broadleaf weed. It is, however, easy to get along with. It smells minty fresh when you mow it, and it produces these stunningly beautiful flowers in the spring. This colony was growing in a lawn in Mount Lebanon, where it was blooming in late May.
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Gray places this in the genus Nepeta:
NEPETA L. CAT MINT. Calyx tubular, often incurved. Corolla dilated in the throat; the upper lip erect, rather concave, notched or 2-cleft; the lower 3-cleft, the middle lobe largest, either 2-lobed or entire. —Perennial herbs. (The Latin name, thought to be derived from Nepete, an Etruscan city.)
N. hederacea (L.) Trevisan. (GROUND IVY, GILL-OVER-THE-GROUND.) Creeping and trailing; leaves petioled, round-kidney-shaped, crenate, green both sides; corolla thrice the length of the calyx, light blue. (Glecoma L.; Glechoma Benth.) Damp or shady places, near towns—May-July. (Nat. from Eu.)
Monarda is a fascinating example of parallel evolution: it makes a display by clustering small ray-like flowers together in one head so closely that the head is often taken for a single flower. In other words, it adopts the method of the Compositae. This particular species is bright red, which is a very attractive color to hummingbirds. It is otherwise very similar to Wild Bergamot (M. fistulosa), which is rather more common around here.
This is a native perennial, but much used as an ornamental planting, so that it is difficult to distinguish truly wild populations from garden escapes. These plants are probably truly wild; both grew in North Park, where they were blooming in the middle of July. The species is very adaptable to different light conditions: one of these plants was growing in full sun,and the other deep in the woods where a fallen tree had opened up the sky just a bit.
Gray describes the genus and the species:
MONÁRDA L. HORSE MINT. Calyx 15-nerved, usually hairy in the throat. Corolla elongated, with a slightly expanded throat; lips linear or oblong, somewhat equal, the upper erect, entire or slightly notched, the lower spreading, 3-lobed at the apex, its lateral lobes ovate and obtuse, the middle one narrower and slightly notched. Stamens elongated, ascending, inserted in the throat of the corolla. — Odorous erect herbs, with entire or toothed leaves, and large attractive flowers in a few verticels closely surrounded by bracts. (Dedicated to Nicolás Monardes, author of many tracts upon medicinal and other useful plants, especially those of the New World, in the latter half of the 16th century.)
Stamens and style exserted beyond the linear straight acute upper lip of the corolla; heads solitary and terminal or sometimes 2 or 3; leaves acutely more or less serrate; perennials.
Leaves petioled; calyx-teeth scarcely longer than the width of the tube.
Glabrous or villous.
Calyx smooth or smoothish in the throat.
M. didyma L. (Oswego Tea, Bee Balm.) Stem somewhat hairy, 2 m. or less high, acutely 4-angled; leaves ovate-lanceolate, acuminate, the floral ones and the large outer bracts tinged with red; calyx smoothlsh, nearly naked in the throat; corolla smooth or minutely pubescent, 4-5 cm. long, bright red, showy. — Moist woods, by streams, w. Que., Out., and south w. July, Aug.
A European plant often cultivated here as a ground cover, but increasingly escaping into the wild. This plant was growing deep in the woods in Fox Chapel, on a hillside overlooking the Squaw Run, far from any cultivated planting. It is also commonly placed in the genus Lamiastrum, or “False Lamium.” So it is classified in the USDA PLANTS database, which records it as found in the wild in Pennsylvania. This particular plant, which shows the variegated leaves often found in cultivated varieties, was blooming in early May.
Gray describes the genus Lamium thus:
LAMIUM L. DEAD NETTLE. Calyx tubular-bell-shaped, about 5-nerved, with 5 nearly equal awl-pointed teeth. Corolla dilated at the throat; upper lip ovate or oblong, arched, narrowed at the base; the middle lobe of the spreading lower lip broad, notched at the apex, contracted as if stalked at the base; the lateral ones small, at the margin of the throat. Decumbent herbs, the lowest leaves small and long-petioled, the middle heart-shaped and doubly toothed, the floral subtending the whorled flower-cluster. (Name from lamos, throat, in allusion to the ringent corolla.)
This species is not described in the standard American botanical references, so we borrow a very thorough description from English Botany by James Sowerby.
LAMIUM GALEOBDOLON. Crantz.
Galeobdolon luteum, Ends. Sm. Engl. Bot. ed. i. No. 787. Koch, Syn. Fl. Germ. et Helv. ed. ii. p. 650. Galeopsis Galeobdolon, Linn. Sp. Pl. p. 810.
Perennial. Rootstock tufted or very shortly creeping. Barren shoots very long, trailing or arching, at length rooting. Flowering stems not rooting at the base, erect or ascending. Leaves stalked, ovate or deltoid-ovate, subcordate, slightly acuminate, acute, doubly or irregularly crenate-serrate. Verticillasters remote from each other. Lower bracts similar to the leaves, but narrower, and with shorter stalks; upper ones generally lanceolate, with a wedge-shaped base, more rarely similar to the lower ones. Calyx puberulent or sparingly bristly-hairy; teeth deltoid, abruptly acuminated into triangular points, sparingly ciliated or glabrous, and subspinous at the apex, spreading, not half the length of the tube; tube slightly curved and oblique at the mouth. Corolla tube rather longer than the calyx, with a conspicuous very oblique ring of hairs within, slightly curved upwards, without a projecting sac near the base on the lower side, suddenly enlarged towards the apex; upper hp greatly vaulted, obtuse, sparingly hairy; lower lip with the lateral lobes ovate-acuminate, the middle lobe a little larger, oblong, acuminated into a lanceolate point.
In woods and on hedge-banks, particularly on chalk and limestone formations. Local, but not uncommon in the south of England; rare in the north, where it extends north to Lancashire and Yorkshire. It has occurred in Scotland, but is scarcely deserving to be considered even as a naturalised plant. Rare, and very local in Ireland, where it is nearly confined to the east of the island.
England, [Scotland,] Ireland. Perennial. Spring, early Summer.
Rootstock many-headed, emitting numerous wiry radical fibres and producing flowering and barren stems, the latter in autumn attaining the length of 1 or 2 feet, and growing much in the same way as those of Vinca major. Flowering stems 9 inches to 2 feet high, more or less flexuous towards the base. Lamina of the leaves 1 to 2½ inches long. Verticillasters 6 to 10 flowered. Bracts 1½ to 3 inches long, the upper ones sometimes very narrow. Calyx yellowish-green. Corolla ¾ to 1 inch long, yellow, the lower lip bright yellow, with reddish-brown s pots and streaks; upper lip considerably more than half the length of the corolla; tube very short. Anthers destitute of the hairs which occur in all the other British species. Nucules generally abortive: at least I have never been able to find them mature. Plant light green, more or less thickly pubescent with rather stiff hairs, those on the stem deflexed.
The British plant has the upper bracts usually narrow, and is the Galeobdolon montanum of Reichenbach. Occasionally, however, I have seen the bracts all broad and similar to the leaves (G. luteum, Reich.), but the two forms certainly do not deserve to be called even varieties.
French, Lamier jaune. German, Goldnessel.
A big, sloppy mint that likes to grow in the deep woods, with huge leaves (by mint-family standards) and panicles of bizarre yellowish flowers with long projecting stamens. The flowers look like little dragons, and well repay a close look, perhaps with a glass. Only a few of the flowers are open at any one time; the rest are either still in bud or shriveling on the stem, adding to the general appearance of slovenliness. The scent is like cheap artificial lemon perfume. The flowers above were blooming in Scott Township at the end of August; the ones below in the woods near Normalville in the middle of August.
Gray describes the genus (which has only one species in our area) and the species.
COLLINSÒNIA L. HORSE BALM. Calyx ovoid, enlarged and declined in fruit, 2-lipped; upper lip truncate and flattened, 3-toothed, the lower 2-cleft. Corolla elongated, expanded at the throat, somewhat 2-lipped, the tube with a bearded ring within; the 4 upper lobes nearly equal, but the lower much larger and longer, pendent, toothed or lacerate-fringed. Stamens 2 (sometimes 4, the upper pair shorter), much exserted, diverging; anther-cells divergent. — Strong-scented perennials, with large ovate leaves, and yellowish flowers on slender pedicels. (Named in honor of Peter Collinson, early English botanist.)
С. canadensis L. (RICH-WEED, STONE-ROOT.) Nearly smooth, 5-10 dm. high; leaves serrate, pointed, petioled, 1-2 dm. long; panicle loose; corolla 1.5 cm. long, lemon-scented; stamens 2.—Rich moist woods, w. Que. to Wise., s. to Fla. and Mo. July-Sept.
A hairy and aromatic little mint that likes open woods, and is not above popping up in a shaded lawn, as this one did near Normalville. It’s a close relative of Summer and Winter Savory. The flowers are a delightfully pure shade of pink, hard to reproduce exactly in a photograph.
Gray describes the genus and the species:
SATURÈJA [Tourn.] L. SAVORY, CALAMINT. Calyx tubular to bell-shaped, 10-13-nerved, naked or hairy in the throat. Corolla with a straight tube and an inflated throat, distinctly 2-lipped; the upper lip erect, flattish, entire or notched; the lower spreading, 3-parted, the middle lobe usually largest. Stamens 4, somewhat ascending. — Herbs or shrubs, with mostly purplish or whitish flowers produced all summer; inflorescence various. (The ancient Latin name.) Including Clinopodium L., Calamintha Lam.
Flowers in sessile dense many-flowered clusters, and involucrate with conspicuous setaceous-subulate bracts; calyx nearly naked in the throat.
6. S. vulgàris (L.) Fritsch. (basil.) Hairy, erect, 2-6 dm. high; leaves ovate, petioled, nearly entire; flowers lavender to pink, in globular clusters; hairy bracts as long as the calyx. (Clinopodium L.; Calamintha Clinopodium Benth.) —Woods, thickets, and alluvial banks, Nfd. to Va., О., Ind., and Man. (Eurasia.)
The fleshy soft, hairy leaves delight children and any adult not too far gone to take pleasure in simple tactile sensations. The purple flowers make a gorgeous contrast to the whitish hairs of the leaves and stems, but appear only for a relatively short time. This is a garden favorite that seeds itself liberally: once you plant Lamb’s Ears, you have them forever, and they pop up in unexpected places. They can often be found in the city as an escape; these plants were growing on a bank in Beechview, where they were blooming in the middle of May.
Gray describes the genus Stachys; in his time, this particular species had not established itself in the wild enough for him to take notice of it.
STÂCHYS [Tourn.] L. HEDGE NETTLE. Corolla not dilated at the throat; upper lip erect or rather spreading, often arched, entire or nearly so; the lower usually longer and spreading, 3-lobed, with the middle lobe largest and nearly entire. Stamens 4, ascending under the upper lip (often reflexed on the throat after flowering); anthers approximate in pairs. Nutlets obtuse, not truncate. — Whorls 2-many-flowered, approximate in a terminal raceme or spike (whence the name, from stachys, a spike).
Although Gray does not describe the species S. byzantina, no description is really necessary. No other Stachys in our area has anything like the silver-haired foliage of this plant; it is nearly impossible to misidentify.