Plant Lore: Horny Goat Weed


yellow epimedium with red-tinged foliage.
image by skymoon13 courtesy istock.

Barrenwort, Fairy Wings, Bishops Hat. There are plenty of benign names for this plant, but nothing grabs your attention quite like Horny Goat Weed. Known scientifically as Epimedium, this shade- and drought-tolerant perennial originates from China where its medicinal qualities far overshadowed any use as an ornamental plant.

Epimedium flowers hang delicately above red-tinged foliage.
imagey by skymoon13 courtesy iStock.

Legend has it that a goat herder noticed that his flock was especially frisky after eating the plant and the rest is history. While the science is a bit murky, ingesting the foliage is said to improve circulation and perhaps stimulate the production of certain hormones. (Please don’t try this without consulting a doctor.) What is certain, is that it's a lovely, dependable perennial with delicate orchid-like flowers that appear to float above the foliage in early spring. It’s an especially good option for planting beneath trees.