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Cleavers

Posted: Thursday 12 July 2012
by James Alexander-Sinclair

I want to complain about Galium aparine, aka cleavers, goose grass or sticky weed. It’s an annual weed endowed with great persistence [...]


Flower and leaves of Galium aparine

I want to make a complaint.

It’s not about the rain, for a change, even though the relentless muddiness is becoming a little wearing.

No, I want to complain about Galium aparine, aka cleavers, goose grass or sticky weed. It’s an annual weed endowed with great persistence - we had a bit of it last year, but this year, we seem to be overrun by the dashed stuff, and I am unamused. It insinuates itself amongst border plants, smothers wildflowers in the orchard, and scrambles up wire fences.

It’s one of those weeds, which sticks like velcro to your clothes as you pass, thus cleverly spreading its seed all over the place. And what seems particularly miraculous, is that great lengths of weed, are supported by a spindly stem, no thicker than a piece of thread.

Galium aparine has tiny white flowers, followed by little round fruit. Interestingly, the seeds can be dried, and made into a (low caffeine) coffee substitute. It was also used historically as a mattress filler, poultice, sedative and red dye (from the roots).

All of these uses are not really worth the trouble, but if you feel the urge, please ask, as I seem to be holding the National Collection of cleavers at the moment. Unfortunately, because it’s an annual, if I have lots this year, I am almost certain to have more next year - unless I stop writing and start weeding, sharpish.

It’s also worth mentioning that geese love to eat the stuff, so it might be a good enough reason to invest in a couple of Embdens.




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christine morgan 17/07/2012 at 12:19

Eerrmmm! I think not....we have the national collection here. We run a caravan park of 8 acres and until this year we had hardly any but this year there has been an explosion and it's everywhere, probably because our customers walk around the park all the time. I don't care much that it is useful it is a flippin pain in the rear and so difficult to eradicate. Like you I am dreading next year!! Good luck with yours...lol

Warthog 17/07/2012 at 14:59

I couldn't agree more. The stuff seems to hide itself until it suddenly bursts forth rampantly over everything in the border, and as fast as you try to pull it out, it sticks to everything and breaks up into pieces.

Shrinking Violet 17/07/2012 at 17:42

A pain, indeed.  Our cats get the seeds caught in their fur, causing tangles, (or helping to spread the wretched plants).

And another pain - I am allergic to them.  If they touch my skin, the roughness causes me to come up in large red weals.  I hate the things.  And the root is so small and fragile that they are the very devil  to get rid of!

Joe_the_Gardener 17/07/2012 at 18:49

It seems to have been a good year for Goosegrass. It is annual that is quick to seed, so you need to pull it out early. The fragile roots don't make any difference - it's a new plant that comes up. I actually don't mind dealing with it; it seems to surrender quite easily.

Bookertoo 18/07/2012 at 10:35

Never have we seen so much cleavers, goosegrass, johnny run by the hedge, sticky grass - as many names as there are.  I even found a piece up in the golden hop, about 8 foot high, never had that before.  Ir is certainly a very good year for it.  Also in other countries, my sister in laws garden in the Netherlands is overun with it as well - must like the wet? 

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