Moneywort is a introduced perennial non-climbing vine - a creeper that grows up to 3 feet long on light green ridged stems that frequently branch. It is in the same genus as the plants called Loosestrifes.
The leaves are roundish, but with a short stubby sharp tip, opposite, with smooth margins, hairless surfaces and on very short stalks. The upper surface does have reddish-brown dots.
The flowers are solitary, about 1 inch wide and on stalks from the leaf axils - the stalks about the same length as the leaves. The corolla is yellow, splitting in 5 deeply cut petals with lobes that can be pointed to acutely rounded. The corolla lobes are streaked with black resin canals. The five yellow stamens each face their petal and are joined at the base to form a small fleshy nectary ring in the center of which is a yellow-green ovoid ovary with a single style which is short and placed directly below the anthers. The stamen filaments have tiny golden hairs. The outer green calyx has 5 sepals, heart shaped, and are also streaked with resin canals. Flowers arise from leaf axils and usually in pairs, one from each of the opposite leaves.
Seed: Flowers do not form seeds as they are sterile to their own pollen as well as pollen from other plants. The plant spreads by node rooting along the stem and has no need to produce seeds.
Habitat: A somewhat moist site is needed and this allows roots to form from buds at the leaf stalks. As the plant does not set seed, this is its means of further propagation and the source of the various alternate common names alluding to creeping. The roots have slender rhizomes. Full sun produces the most flowers. Partial shade is tolerated.
Names: The genus name Lysimachia, is from the Greek for either king Lysimachus or from lysis meaning "a release from" and mache is for "strife". The legend is that Lysimachus, king of Sicily, was walking through a field. A bull chased him. He grabbed a loosestrife plant, waved it in front of the bull and it calmed the bull. In general then, the generic name refers to a supposed power to soothe animals or "loose" them of their "strife". He also loved gold. The species name, nummularia, is from "nummus", a coin - referring to the roundish leaves. The author name for the plant classification, 'L.', refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy.
In earlier years L. nummularia was classified in the Primrose family (Primulaceae). Some of the leading references have now moved species of the Lysimachia genus into another plant family - Myrsinaceae. Details of this change are noted at the bottom of this page.
The alternate name "Herb Twopence" comes from the earliest English Herbal, that of Turner, who coins that name from the leaves appearing as rows of pence with 2 opposite each other. The often used name of 'jenny' associated with words such as 'creeping' or 'running' is from Old England and a bit obscure, but refers to the plants habit of rapidly creeping over the ground, however, one must be careful using it as, for instance, the name 'creeping jenny' has also been used for Ground Ivy (Creeping Charlie), Glechoma hederacea, and Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis. Asking for 'creeping jenny' may get you something you may not want to see in your garden.
Above: Flowers are solitary on stalks rising from the opposite leaf axils. The five yellow stamens each face their petal and are joined at the base to form a small ring, in the center of which is a yellow-green ovoid ovary with single style.
Below: The calyx of the flower is very short with 5 heart shaped yellow-green sepals that are placed in-between the five petals.
Below: 1st photo - The roundish opposite pairs of leaves are what has given the plant its specific name and some of the common names such as Herb Twopence. 2nd photo - Stems are ridged.
Notes: Eloise Butler had catalogued Moneywort in her plant index as present in the Garden area although the date is uncertain but in 1917 she noted moving 3 plants. Martha Crone planted it in 1933, '46, '47, and '48 and it was listed on her 1951 inventory of plants in the Garden at that time. The plant is not native to the United States, but introduced. In Minnesota it is reported in counties bordering the St. Croix River and then south along the Mississippi. It is potentially invasive and listed as a noxious weed by several states. In North America is is found in the eastern half of the continent and also on the west coast. Medicinal properties were inferred to this plant in early Herbals.
Fourtern species of Lysimachia are of record in Minnesota per the U of M Herbarium as of 2018; several have not been collected in recent decades. Ten are still listed currently by the DNR on their plant surveys. Of those nine are native, one is introduced. The species of Lysimachia of record in the Garden, current and historical, are: Starflower, L. borealis; Fringed Loosestrife, Lysimachia ciliata; Moneywort, L. nummularia (the introduced species); Prairie Loosestrife, Lysimachia quadriflora; Whorled Loosestrife, L. quadrifolia; Swamp Candles, Lysimachia terrestis; Tufted Loosestrife, Lysimachia thyrsiflora; Garden Loosestrife, Lysimachia vulgaris.
Family Change: Some of the leading references have moved the species of Lysimachia from the Primrose (Primulaceae) family into a new plant family - Myrsinaceae, following the lead of Flora of North America (FNA) (Ref.#W-7). The U of M Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Minnesota (Ref.#28C) follows this classification. FNA states: “M. Källersjö et al. (2000) and B. Ståhl and A. A. Anderberg (2004) removed the nonrosette terrestrial members from Primulaceae in the broad sense and placed them in the Myrsinaceae, which are further distinguished by leaves and calyx often dotted with yellow or dark streaks, flowers with relatively shorter corolla tubes, seeds immersed in placentae, and wood devoid of rays or with multiseriate rays only.”
Medicinal use: The whole herb was used, fresh or dried and the plant was considered on the best possible 'wound-worts'. Culpeper (Ref.#4b) writes in The English Physician: "Moneywort is singular good to stay all fluxes in man or woman, whether they be lasks, bloody-fluxes, the flowing of women's courses, bleeding inwardly or outwardly, and the weakness of the stomach that is given to casting. ... It is exceeding good for wounds, either fresh or green, to heal them speedily and for all ulcers that are of a spreading nature. ... The decoction of the green herb, in wine, or water, drank, or used to the outward place, to wash or bathe them, or to have tents dipped therein and put into them, are effectual."
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Identification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"