This little herb grows as a weed, appearing very early spring. It has several common names, including clivers, cleavers, goosegrass, sticky weed, and sticky willy to name a few.
The Velcro like hook hairs on the leaves and squarish stem mean this weed will happily stick to your clothes and other plants. It is a straggly weed, that grows to around 3 feet or longer. It either grows along the ground, or upwards with support of other plants. The leaves are narrow in whorls of 6 or 8.
As the plant matures, it has tiny star shaped flowers (generally of 4 white and greenish petals) in clusters or 2 or 3. These shoot from the leaf axils.
As the plant ages, little seeds, or burrs, are produced, in clusters of 1 to 3 seeds. They are covered with little hook hairs that attach to animals to aid seed dispersal.
Gallium Aparine can appear similar to Gallium Odoratum (sweet woodruff). One of the key differences is that sweet woodruff does not have fine hairs.
This herb, grows abundantly in gardens if left untended. It supports lymphatic drainage and supports detoxification of the body.
It supports weight loss, and helps heal dry skin. If you suffer with irritable bladder or painful urination, this is a herb to try. Make it as a tea, or use it as a herbal water (see YouTube video), Also see my recipes here.
Gallium Aparine can also be eaten as a vegetable.
To use, harvest when young. If eating in a mixed leaf salad, use the very young leaves only, as the leaves are very soft. Alternatively, try adding the leaves to soups or spinach dishes. You can also use them to make pesto (the crushing of the leaves makes them soft, so the very fines hairs are not noticeable).
I find the young leaves have a mild cucumber like flavour, so very subtle and quite pleasant.
Other uses of Gallium Aparine include using it as a poultice for sunburn, nettle rash, blisters, open sores, psoriasis, hot inflamed skin and burns. To make a poultice, pop some fresh (washed) cleavers in a pestle and mortar and grind well, then apply to the affected area.
Have you used Gallium Aparine before? What have you made with it, and how have you found it. I would love to hear from you.