Some similarities to : Many other umbellifers.
Easily confused with : Wild Angelica (Angelica sylvestris) which although has similar leaves, they are up to 3-pinnate rather than only up to 2-pinnate. The stems are often suffused purple, the flowers are yellowish-green, the sheaths under the branched stems are highly inflated and the fruits have four wings.
No relation to :
Elder (Sambucus nigra) ('Elderberry' or 'Elderflower', a tree) [a plant with similar name with white flowers that look umbellifer-like] nor to Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris), a much shorter plant with yellow flowers.
An umbellifer which was introduced by the Romans, so if you have some in your garden and cannot get rid of it, you blame them.
The gardeners bane; if ever Ground Elder gets a hold in any garden, the gardener will never get rid of it, for it is a really tenacious and aggressively invasive weed. Even replacing it with Japanese Knotweed will not rid the garden of it (nor of the knotweed!). It is said that the roots can extend downwards by up to 30 feet, which somewhat explains its persistence. Somewhat surprisingly, some gardeners use it as a ground cover plant best known for its foliage!
The flowers of Ground Elder contain the highest concentration of Falcarindiol, up to 9% by weight. Falcarindiol has been shown to possess anti-cancer activity and also inhibits the germination of fungal spores, a property the plant may find useful. Another polyacetylenic compound, Falcarinol is also present in Ground Elder as well as an un-named third. Ivy too contains falcarindiol, which has two energetic triple bonds, unusual (but not unique) in the natural world. Triple bonds are highly reactive, which is why polyacetylenes are so toxic.
The crushed flowers, stems and foliage have a characteristic smell, some say of cats pee whilst other say of a pleasant smell. Over twenty volatile organic compounds have been identified within it. these consist mainly of terpenoids the most abundant being Sabinene at 63%, followed by α-Pinene, β-Pinene, Myrcene, α-Geraniol,
α-Thujene which is highly poisonous and β-Phellandrene. Minor components include Citronellol, Linalool,
IsoBorneol and acetates of Terpenols. The leaves and stems are also edible and are high in Vitamin E and Vitamin C and can be eaten as salad, the taste being reminiscent of
Celery. It has also been used to cure rheumatism and gout (hence the alternative vernacular name of Gout-weed - and this is also reflected in the scientific name of podagraria - podagra being the medical name for gout). External application as a poultice can treat burns, wounds and stings.