Creeping Charlie is a thug. It took me a year to figure that out.
When it appeared last spring in a shady bare spot in my garden, I let it be. It had pretty scalloped, variegated leaves, the white edges giving a nice lift to a dim corner, and dainty lavender flowers that added a hint of color. I thought I’d see how it fared.
How did I not know about this aggressive weed?
In childhood I learned that dandelions, white clover and wild violets were my parents’ pet garden peeves (even though I set many a tea party table with bouquets of them all). Eventually I learned to recognize henbit, nutsedge, purslane, and other irksome nuisances. But somehow, in all my years, Creeping Charlie had escaped me.
Surprisingly, it hasn’t made it to Oklahoma’s Dirty Dozen list of invasives, and this native to Europe and Southeast Asia, does have an interesting history: it was used for thousands of years as food or as a tea and as a medicine for gastrointestinal and other ailments (although modern chemistry has isolated compounds in the plant that are toxic). European settlers brought it here with good intentions, and no doubt appreciated it as a pretty groundcover.
But groundcover wasn’t what I was looking for. I had plenty of that, yet before I knew it, my own groundcover had disappeared beneath a blanket of this aggressive newcomer. That dainty looking clump had transformed into a monster, engulfing my money wort, ajuga and purple oxalis, bolting right over my Evening primrose and strangling my spreading plum yew. It mounded against a brick wall and dug deep against the sidewalk.
Let me be clear: Creeping Charlie does not “creep.” It does not crawl. It does not dawdle. It streaks. It suffocates. It takes over. (It’s in the mint family. Need I say more?) But it is pretty. And I’ve been told that a weed is just a plant out of place.
I recently ran across an article in the blog thefamiliarstrange.com, “Weeds Don’t Exist in the Wild: What can that tell us about humans?” by anthropologist Dr. Ben Belek, who posed the question: Is a weed still a weed when one has given up on the prospect of removing it?
It reminds me of that age-old philosophical query: "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"
I’ll ponder that while I’m digging out this intruder!
By the way, if it’s in the lawn, you can use a weed killer containing triclopyr, which is found in many lawn care products. It is not to be used in flower or vegetable gardens. Read and follow all label directions.