Cleavers (Galium aparine)
Galium aparine is a herbaceous annual plant of the family Rubiaceae. It is native to North America and Eurasia. It has several common names, including Cleavers, Clivers, Goosegrass, Stickywilly, Sticky willow, Stickyjack, Stickyweed, Stickyleaf, Catchweed, Robin-run-the-hedge, Coachweed, and Bedstraw.
Galium aparine is edible. The leaves and stems of the plant can be cooked as a leaf vegetable before the fruits appear. However, the numerous small hooks which cover the plant and give it its clinging nature make it less palatable if eaten raw.
When dried and roasted, the fruits of this plant can be used to make a coffee-like drink.
The plant was traditionally used to treat skin diseases. Herbalists believe that it lowers blood pressure and body temperature, and they use it to treat cystitis. The whole plant is considered rich in vitamin C. As a pulp, it has been used to relieve poisonous bites.
As a tea, the plant is said to have medicinal properties as a tonic, diuretic, and laxative. In addition, the tea has been used as an anti-perspirant (by the Chinese), and as a relief for head colds (home remedy), restlessness, and sunburns.
In Sweden the plant's stalk was traditionally used to strain milk.
In Europe, the dried, matted foliage of the plant was once used to stuff mattresses ... hence the name Bedstraw.
The long stems of this climbing plant sprawl over the ground and other plants, reaching heights of up to 2 metres. The leaves are borne in whorls of six to eight. Both leaves and stem have fine hairs tipped with tiny hooks, making them cling to clothes and fur much like velcro. The greenish-white flowers are 2-3 mm across, with four petals.
It flowers from early spring to summer, with the flowers occurring in most of the leaf nodes. The fruits are clustered 1-3 seeds together. Each seed is covered with hooked hairs (a burr) which cling to animal fur, aiding in seed dispersal.
It is a common weed in hedges and other low shrubby vegetation, and is also a common weed in arable fields, as well as gardens. As they grow quite rampantly and thickly, they end up shading out any small plants that they overrun.
The seeds are similar in size to cereal grains, and so are a common contaminant in cereals since they are difficult to filter out. The presence of some seed in cereals is not considered a serious problem as they are not toxic.