Leonurus cardiaca (Motherwort)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Lamiaceae (Mint)
Life cycle:perennial
  • Weedy
Habitat:sun; wet or dry, woods, fields, disturbed soil
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:2 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: whorled

[photo of flowers] Clusters of stalkless flowers surround the stem at the leaf nodes in the upper part of the plant. Individual flowers are pink to lavender, tubular, about 1/3-inch long. The upper lip extends out, its outer surface densely covered in long, white hairs. The lower lip is a darker purplish color, narrow and folds up lengthwise. Purple-tipped stamens and a white style arch along the inside of the upper lip.The calyx is green to purplish, hairy, with 5 sharply pointed lobes.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves vary in size and shape as they ascend the stem and have prominent veins. The lower leaves are deeply lobed in 3 to 5 parts with large teeth and often resemble maple leaves, up to 5 inches long and nearly as wide, on long stalks, and are somewhat hairy. Leaves progressively become smaller, the lobes and teeth less deep; at the top of the plant they are usually narrow, unlobed with a few widely spaced teeth. Stems are square, variously hairy, and mostly unbranched except in the upper plant. Plants create colonies from spreading rhizomes.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of calyx in winter] The calyx persists through winter and turns brown and quite stiff when dry, the lobes becoming rather sharp to the touch. Inside are 4 1-seeded nutlets.


A beautiful but weedy species, Common Motherwort is often found at woodland edges and is common throughout much of Minnesota. It is likely more widespread than the distribution map indicates. Similar is the related Siberian Motherwort (Leonurus sibiricus), which has finely divided leaves, flowers that are much less hairy, and is far less commonly encountered with only 2 known locations in the state.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Spangle Creek Labs - Native orchids, lab propagated
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jenifer - Minneapolis
on: 2011-06-29 11:47:43

I have some of this growing in my perrenial garden and have been trying to figure out what it is. Now I'm glad I pulled most of it out.

Posted by: amy - Villa Park, Roseville, Ramsey County
on: 2012-07-03 20:45:29

Spotted this today, growing near the water at Villa Park

Posted by: R.D. - Minnetonka
on: 2014-07-30 12:39:41

Where are seeds available?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-07-30 12:46:19

R.D., I hope seeds are not available for sale anywhere. While we don't deny the flowers are pretty, they easily escape cultivation and will infiltrate natural areas, woodlands in particular. We have enough weeds already, I think.

Posted by: troy - st.cloud
on: 2014-09-11 00:33:02

This weed has taken over a small forest area by the Mississippi. It is everywhere.

Posted by: Jane - Inver Grove Heights
on: 2015-05-11 16:26:45

This noxious invasive invader is difficult to get rid of. I've been pulling it for the last two summers in my woodland. It keeps coming back in massive clumps every spring. It's damaging my Soloman's Seal, ferns, and Virginia Waterleaf and invading their space. Most people don't know what it is (the previous inhabitant of my house), but more people should be on the lookout for it to get rid of it.

Posted by: Janice - Roseville
on: 2015-08-23 22:52:45

Willow Pond Park has been undergoing restoration and has many new native species recently planted (May 2015). But motherwort has a significant presence. I am a volunteer caretaker of the park and am spending hours pulling it and other invasive plants. Motherwort grows tall and shades out some shorter and less aggressive native plants like Jacob's Ladder.

Posted by: Linda - Freeborn Co.
on: 2016-03-18 23:31:41

The weeds I most dislike are those that are painful to come in contact with, esp. nettles, burdock, and motherwort. Motherwort sharp spines are by far the worst! Not only the most painful, but the most invasive. Poison Ivy would be worse but fortunately I don't have that one! I don't use chemicals but gradually I am making progress on getting rid of motherwort by hand pulling. I cannot imagine anyone deliberately planting it!!!

Posted by: BC - Lake Harriet, Minneapolis
on: 2016-04-12 11:56:41

Volunteer monitoring part of the Minneapolis parks. MW is present now on the southeast corner of Roberts Bird Sanctuary along with Buckthorn and Garlic Mustard. Plan is to continue hand pulling GM and MW from the site and wrench pull the Buckthorn.

Posted by: Chris - Roseville, Villa Park and Reservoir Woods
on: 2016-04-20 14:44:34

They grow in various places throughout Villa Park and Reservoir Woods, but are nowhere near as widespread as the Garlic Mustard.

Posted by: Krista - Kimball
on: 2016-05-25 15:16:59

If you get the spines in your skin they come out and leave very little pain or itching by using duct tape on the affected area and pulling it off thereby taking the spines out of your skin.

Posted by: Alex - Monticello
on: 2017-06-01 15:17:58

Found on railroad tracks in Monticello in late May.

Posted by: Angie - Eden Prairie
on: 2017-06-10 09:15:46

These are creeping into Eden Prairie in recent years. I had a lot of trouble identifying till they started blooming this week. It seems most other flower ID sites don't know they exist. Now I can pull it with wild abandon!

Posted by: Mani S - Minnetonka
on: 2017-06-14 15:26:04

I have several clumps in my backyard, ongoing struggle to get rid of them

Posted by: Calvin C U - Winona
on: 2017-06-15 23:12:22

Tried to identify this plant for a month. iPhone apps and your key don't bring it up (my plants flowered purple, but I finally recognized it under your pink category.) Cut the previous years stalks early spring, waited to see what they flowered as. Not very showy, and definitely dominate any other plants near them. I have uprooted the lot, and will see what I get back next year. Didn't appear to have any additional than from where I cut previous year stalks. Square, coarse stems one can just about cut lumber from!

Posted by: Jessica - Plymouth, MN
on: 2017-07-04 00:16:45

We definitely have quite a bit of this in the "natural" areas around Plymouth. I had a hard time figuring out what it was until it flowered! Now I know. "Natural" areas need to be monitored just as carefully as a pristine garden, or soon you'll have nothing but invasives!!

Posted by: luciearl - Lake Shore, MN
on: 2017-07-07 07:00:06

I pulled most of this up last year. Looks like it didn't make a difference. Looking at it from my deck, the bees seem to enjoy it. At least I know it doesn't have neonics.

Posted by: Geri E
on: 2017-07-15 14:51:33

It is in my mom's flower bed in Bowesmont/Drayton ND.She is about 2-4 miles from the Red River. It may have migrated here due to flooding.She is 16mi. from the Canadian Border.She is close to Hallock MN.

Posted by: Antonette L
on: 2017-08-11 21:02:47

I am in Canada, someone sold me this plant at a home plant sale,and now its all over my yeard, just putting up with it, cause it attracts a lot of bees/bumble bees, is that good or not? if you say its not, I will get rid of it,I may spread another noxious weed here, we already have enough

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-08-12 06:00:01

Antonette, I would try to get rid of it and replace it with native species (there are plenty of bee-friendly natives available in the garden trade), but now that it's established you may have a difficult time of it. And it has likely spread beyond your yard so, yes, you have inadvertently helped spread another noxious weed. Live and learn.

Posted by: Danielle - Carlton County
on: 2017-08-23 23:04:04

I hope y'all are making medicine with all those "pesky" motherwort plants you're pulling up! cardiaca isn't her appellation for no reason. I wish she grew so abundantly here since the bumble bees can't get enough of her.

Posted by: Joan - Wisconsin
on: 2017-11-07 09:40:33

I'm torn. I do have this plant in my courtyard, and every spring the bees absolutely love it! Do I disregard my instinct to always help the bees? If it's as awful as people say maybe I should get rid of it. What other natives would be a better choice?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-11-07 13:32:18

Joan and anyone else who is looking for an alternative to motherwort for their garden: check with the native plant nurseries. They'll have a good selection of pollinator friendly native plants that bloom throughout the season. You should be able to find plenty that will do well in your particular soil, moisture and light conditions.

Posted by: Jennie - ontario
on: 2018-02-04 11:57:47

Dear motherwort, Thank you for showing yourself in my garden. I look forward to drinking some of your tea or making a tincture to help me with my nerves. My heart has been a little heavy and I know you will help to make it light again. Sincerely, Jennie-May

Posted by: Helen - Inver Grove Heights
on: 2018-04-26 16:04:36

Thanks to your good pictures and info, I just identified this on a hillside that we are trying to return to oak savanna. I see the low,bushy rosette and last years stems with the prickly seed pods. I'll pull out what I found, and hope I don't have too much.

Posted by: Dianne - Park Rapids
on: 2018-07-27 23:20:29

Oh yeah we got it here. Not even close on the map. Not cool when you're picking grapes black cherries Etc and you step on some Barefoot! we don't have sand Burrs around here... but we sure got motherwort and thistles!

Posted by: joan m e - deerwood
on: 2019-06-25 06:58:37

Showed up in an old pot that had been left outside for a couple of years, haven't noticed it anywhere else on the property or surrounding natural areas. Debating whether or not to plant it out of the way and let it naturalize for the bees. Do any other animals / birds / insects utilize it for any reasons?

Posted by: Kari - Perham
on: 2019-07-22 23:21:10

one or two appeared randomly in a wooded area in the backyard. having a harder time getting rid of chokecherry.

Posted by: Betsy Dienhart - Brooklyn Park
on: 2021-04-12 12:47:29

Spotted coming up in Mississippi Gateway Regional Park along with garlic mustard.

Posted by: Ellen S. - Edina, Hennepin Co.
on: 2021-05-08 09:44:21

These come up in our backyard.

Posted by: Terry Viesselman - Fairmont
on: 2022-06-27 14:24:42

A member of the mint family. Honeybees love it. Even prefer it to sweet clover.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-06-27 14:44:50

Terry, honeybees are native to Europe so it is no surprise if they favor motherwort or sweet clover, neither of which is native to North America, either. All three can go, AFAIC. If native bees visit motherwort it is likely because there isn't anything better around.

Posted by: Brad - dakota county
on: 2022-06-30 09:40:47

I have a cluster of this on my property. I am reluctant to get rid of it as I have never seen so many bees, all kinds. Pretty sure I even spotted a rusty patched bumblebee, been working on my bee identification. If it starts to get out of hand I'll thin it out, but again I don't want to take away food from the bumblebees, it is rich in both nectar and pollen.

Posted by: Patti McCoven - Brooklyn Park
on: 2022-07-25 08:45:50

Common Motherwort grows in my lot in the understory near the Mississippi above the Dam.

Posted by: bruce honnigford - Minnetonka
on: 2023-05-23 08:58:22

This plant has become invasive in my yard. Grows early and fast and is not easily pulled.

Posted by: Elaine Morrison - Hennepin County, Saint Louis Park
on: 2023-06-13 09:47:18

It's along the Cedar Lake trail between 31st & 35th streets, joining forces with the buckthorn.

Posted by: Toni Wenzell - Columbia Heights
on: 2023-06-17 22:21:41

Motherwortis also medicinal. Excellent for "female problems" and nervousness. Best used as a tincture with drop dosages.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-06-18 06:25:51

Toni, many plants have value to humans for one reason or another but that is not a good reason to let them run rampant in the wild.

Posted by: jeffrey C Niles - Coon rapids
on: 2023-07-07 11:30:43

Yeah these are popping up all over my garden and the yard, but they just fill voids where the geraniums, hostas, black raspberry, ferns, and morning glory aren't already invading lol

Posted by: David J Miller - Mpls/St Paul Metro area
on: 2023-10-21 17:57:06

Thanks for the good photos. I will pull this MW here In Golden Valley. I am a champion buckthorn killer if anyone wishes for help, but I will not do said removal as a volunteer. Too scratchy...

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.