Photo credit: © Deb Nystrom, https://flic.kr/p/fUhLNL
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Species at a Glance
Moneywort, also called pennywort and creeping jenny, is an herbaceous low-growing perennial that is part of the primrose family. It forms a thick creeping ground cover with stems that can reach up to 0.6 m (2 ft) long and form a mat-like growth about 5-10 cm (2-4 in) tall.
Leaves: Evergreen to semi-evergreen leaves are simple, opposite, and oval in shape, resembling small coins that typically reach 0.6-4 cm (0.25-1.5 in) in length. Upper surfaces of the leaves have widely scattered, glandular, red to black dots.
Flowers: Small, cup-shaped, yellow flowers have five petals and small dark reddish to black spots. They are hermaphroditic and typically solitary in the leaf axils. Blooming usually occurs from June to August, but some may not bloom at all.
Fruits/Seeds: Small seeds are located within capsular fruits that are about as long as the sepals.
Stems/Roots: Smooth stems are thin, reddish, and creep along the ground, rooting where the leaf nodes come in contact with the soil. The stems branch frequently and often form mats.
Moneywort is a close relative of yellow pimpernel (Taenidia integerrima), which has narrower leaves and smaller flowers with much more pointed petals.
While it can grow in a variety of habitats, moneywort grows best in moist areas like wet meadows, swamps, floodplain forests, stream banks, roadside ditches, and along the banks of small water bodies. It tends to prefer moist, rich, and shaded soils.
Moneywort can spread rapidly both by creeping stems and seed dispersal. Seeds spread naturally through flood waters; however, they can also be spread through human activities. The extent to which seeds are dispersed by animals is not fully known, but this may be another method of transport.
Introduced from Europe and southwest Asia as early as 1739, moneywort was historically used for ornamental purposes and as a ground cover. It escaped cultivation by 1900 and is now found throughout the United States and can be found in all Mid-western states.
Note: Distribution data for this species may have changed since the publication of the Mid-Atlantic Field Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species (2016), the source of information for this description.
Little is known about the direct ecological impact of moneywort; however, it has been known to become a nuisance in gardens, pastures, and lawns due to its fast vegetative spread. There is concern that the dense mats formed by this plant could prevent the growth of more desirable native plants.
Information for this species profile comes from the Mid-Atlantic Field Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species (2016).