Bishop’s weed is a bummer! It is one of those plants that just will not go away. Once it has taken root, it more or less smothers everything in its path.
It crawls across the ground in moist, partly shaded areas. It creates a dense groundcover that prevents other plants from developing. It spreads above ground with seeds and underground via runners. If you have bishop’s weed, it is very likely that you will always have bishop’s weed, whether you like it or not.
Bishop’s weed is also known as goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria). It was introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental plant from Europe and Asia. By the 1860’s, bishop’s weed was recognized as an invasive plant in Rhode Island as its ability to grow, spread, and smother was nearly unstoppable. Its damage to native vegetation and to the wildlife dependent on those native varieties is immeasurable. That makes bishop’s weed a most unwanted plant.
Today, bishop’s weed continues to hold a spot on invasive plants lists in Rhode Island as well as in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin. It is a noxious weed in many additional states.
Identifying Bishops Weed
Bishop’s weed resembles Queen Anne’s Lace. It has dainty white flowers that reach out from attractive solid or variegated leaves. It grows as tall as 3 feet, and it spreads rampantly. Check out the video and resources below for images to identify bishop’s weed.
Eliminating Bishops Weed
Bishop’s weed truly is tough to get rid of. If you already have some in your garden, you are probably aware of just how aggressive and tenacious it is. It grows through underground rhizomes. When broken or cut apart, the pieces of rhizome will develop into new plants. Complete removal of the rhizomes is necessary. Although it’s difficult to remove the entire rhizome, it is possible.
Work in a contained area. For example, start with a 2 foot by 2 foot square. Cut the entire bishop’s weed in the area down to the ground. Dig up the soil, the plant material, and the roots and rhizomes. Carefully sift out all of the rhizomes and roots, and throw them away. Replace the soil in the area, and begin the next section. You will need to work quickly between sections so the clean areas aren’t recontaminated with new runners.
Another method for controlling bishop’s weed is called solarization. Mow an area of bishop’s weed down to less than an inch tall. Layer several tarps over the mown section. Secure the tarps to the ground with rocks. As the sun heats up the area, a larger amount of heat will become trapped under the tarps and eventually burn and suffocate the plants and the rhizomes. The tarps may need to be left covering the ground for 1 to 2 weeks.
The most effective way to remove bishop’s weed, although not one hundred percent successful, is to use an herbicide. A basic broadleaf lawn weed spray will work the best. Several applications may be necessary. But remember, when using an herbicide, there is risk to other plants in the area, so weigh the use of chemical treatments carefully.
Alternatives to Bishops Weed
While bishop’s weed continues to be available to purchase in stores, it is a plant that is an inappropriate choice for a careful gardener who knows of its destructive capabilities. There are several plants that make great alternatives to bishop’s weed.
A nice native alternative to the invasive bishop’s weed in the Northeast is Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea). Golden Alexanders bloom in the spring with clusters of yellow flowers. They attract butterflies and bees for a happy, humming garden.
Canada anemone is another alternative to bishop’s weed. It is native to most of the U.S. It is an aggressive grower that is ideal for sunny areas that have succumbed to weeds. The Canada anemone has tenacious habit, so it is a good replacement for the non-native bishop’s weed.
Do your part in creating a healthy ecosystem by recognizing, avoiding and getting rid of invasive plants like bishop’s weed!
Want to learn more about getting rid of bishops weed?
Goutweed from Plant Conservation Alliance
Aegopodium podograria: Bishops’ weed, Gout weed, Ground Elder from NC Cooperative Extension