what is the name of this herb growing voraciously in my backyard? I live in Calif, central valley.
Here is a link that might be useful: Unkown Herb, name please
It's a very stubborn weed, especially common to wetland locations, though it can be found in drier locations, too. Not typically described as an herb in the traditional, culinary definition used in North America.
The common names of this persistent weed are Dollarweed or Pennywort, depending upon your location. Latin name is Hydrocotyle umbellata.
The most common question I receive about this weed is : "How do I get rid of it?"
Although the leaf does somewhat resemble Pennywort, it doesn't have a slit at the stem. I noticed what looked like a spent bloom--so--I think it's a Nasturtium. The leaf is exactly the same.
It does look like pennywort - I know my first reaction was that it looked similar to gotu kola (Hydrocotyle asiatica) which is also in Hydrocotyle genus but it wasn't quite right for that.
Depending upon pennywort species, there may be edible or medicinal uses.
Here is a link that might be useful:
Just saw someone asking about a pennywort ID on the "Name that Plant" forum. See link.
Here is a link that might be useful: Name That Plant - pennywort
Looks like Pennywort to me, too. It USED to be called Hydrocotyle asiatica, but is now called Centella asiatica. Another name for it is Gotu Kola, the Arthritis Plant.
A creeping perennial to about 15cm tall. Shovel-shaped leaves emerging alternately in clusters as the stem nodes. Runners lie along the ground and the 2cm long, deeply-notched leaves with scalloped edges rise along reddish petioles. At each node, a bunch of tufted roots goes into the soil and a leaf exit at each node aerially. It can spread rapidly. Insignificant greenish-to-pinkish white flowers are borne in dense umbels on separate stems in summer.
Medicinal Uses: Leaves are eaten to help problems associated with ageing, such as memory loss, poor circulation, loss of concentration, and arthritis. Also used to treat anxiety and stress, and to improve the immune system, to reduce inflammations. Has a balancing effect on the nervous system. Dried, powdered leaves can be sprinkled over wounds to aid healing and reduce scarring. Used to treat chronic skin conditions including leprosy, psoriasis and elephantiasis; venereal diseases, malaria, fever, varicose veins, haemorrhoids and dementia, colds and flu, liver disorders; to increase blood sugar levels where required; for healing of wounds, muscular atrophy, eye lesions, gastric ulcers, phlebitis. Recent studies have shown that it may destroy tumour cells. It has been used successfully to treat phlebitis, leg cramps, swellings of the legs and 'heaviness' or tingling in the legs. The tea is used as a wash to help healing after surgical incision of the vulva (episiotomy) during childbirth. May be useful in children suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder.
Warning: Do not use when pregnant or lactating, if using tranquilisers or sedatives, or if suffering from an overactive thyroid gland. Avoid if taking medications for diabetes. In large amounts or with long-term use, gotu kola can cause headaches, reduced fertility, vertigo and photosensitivity. People taking the herb for an extended period of time (up to 6 weeks) should take a 2-week break before taking the herb again.Signs of gotu kila toxicity include low blood sugar levels, high blood cholesterol levels, sedation. Topical application may cause rash or photosensitisation. It is recommended that anyone with a history of pre-cancerous or cancerous skin lesions - such as squamous cell, basal cell skin cancer, or melanoma - refrain from taking this herb.
And yes - it's a rampant weed!!
Centella asiatica isn't the same thing as the Hydrocotyl, though they are in the same family. C. asiatica is illustrated in the attached website. This is the plant known as Gotu kola. It's often called pennywort.
What our original poster showed us is what I am calling Dollar weed, Hydrocotyle umbellata. It's also the plant so nicely imaged in Fatamorgana's post, above.
They may superficially look alike, but once you've known them both quite well, there is no mistaking one for the other. I believe that Dollarweed is the most commonly used common name for Hydrocotyle.
Here is a link that might be useful: Centella asiatum/Gotu Kola/pennywort