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PlantFiles: Catchweed Bedstraw, Sticky Willy, Goose Grass, Cleavers
Galium aparine

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Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Galium (GAL-ee-um) (Info)
Species: aparine (ap-AR-in-nee) (Info)

Synonym:Galium agreste var. echinospermum
Synonym:Galium spurium var. echinospermum
Synonym:Galium vaillantii

7 members have or want this plant for trade.

Category:
Annuals
Herbs

Height:
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

Spacing:
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

Hardiness:
Not Applicable

Sun Exposure:
Partial to Full Shade
Full Shade

Danger:
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer

Foliage:
Herbaceous

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
Direct sow as soon as the ground can be worked
From seed; direct sow after last frost
From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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There are a total of 19 photos.
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Profile:

10 positives
5 neutrals
16 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Negative rhusradicans On Jun 12, 2013, rhusradicans from Brooklyn, NY wrote:

I've weeded this stuff 2X for clients and it packs a very rashy punch. Wear gloves and a long sleeved shirt ! It sticks to everything. I seem to be allergic. It makes me sneeze, cough, & get a very bad raised rash. So glad it has medicinal use. Does it work for allergic people ?

Positive jesss2012 On May 4, 2013, jesss2012 from Brighton
United Kingdom wrote:

My dog eats this by the tonne. She rips it out and munches it like a cow. Am glad to find out that is not harmful and actually has medicinal purposes...maybe I shall join her next feast lol

Positive reaver456 On Mar 18, 2013, reaver456 wrote:

Weedy but has many uses. Fruit of the plant can be used as a coffee substitute as it contains cafeine. Also appears to have some medicinal use as well. Also makes a good green when cooked

Negative HeidiKHandmade On Mar 9, 2013, HeidiKHandmade from Vancouver, WA wrote:

DO. NOT. WANT.
This invasive plant comes up every year, and I've finally resorted to Round-Up. Not only the burr-like seeds, but also the leaves and stems adhere to you like velcro!
I would much rather play host to thistles; they produce a prettier flower and get attention by bees and butterflies.

Positive hnz57txn On Mar 5, 2013, hnz57txn from Kaufman, TX wrote:

So glad to read an entry from 2008 about a dog ingesting and loving this weed. I have a 17 month old Dobie who has discovered the weed inhabiting some empty flower pots in the yard.
Yes, he has found a new grazing greenery. I will watch him of course to make sure there are no ill effects, but this will be a weed I don't have to worry about in the yard.

Neutral DMersh On Jul 22, 2012, DMersh from Perth
United Kingdom (Zone 7b) wrote:

Contender for the title of Ultimate Weed this is actually quite an inoffensive plant (compare to other same habitat weeds Thistle - vicious spines or Stinging Nettle - painful toxic stinging hairs), it mainly affects longer haired dogs who get coated in its sticky seed pods. Produces flowers so tiny they are easily missed.

Positive carpathiangirl On Jun 12, 2012, carpathiangirl from Akron, OH (Zone 5a) wrote:

So glad to learn about the benefits of this 'weed', thanks you all DGers for the great info. Yes, I have it in my beds but had no problem pulling it now and then. Besides never seen a single one in my lawn. And from now on every time the new 'crop' is ready I'm about to drink it! sounds definitely better option than pop, why not to take advantage of what the plant has to offer? If only a small part of overweight people made an effort to pull this weed and drink some tea made of it we would have a little slimmer nation I guess?....

And one more positive thing I found about the plant: A good species to grow in the wild garden, it provides food for the larvae of many butterfly species[Carter D. Butterflies and Moths in Britain and Europe. An excellent book on Lepidoptera, it also lists their favourite food plants]

Negative pmcatnip On May 20, 2012, pmcatnip from Lebanon, OR wrote:

This plant is a super invasive weed in Oregon. I can't imagine why anyone would want to cultivate it. I pull it out but there's so much on my property I can't keep up with it. And the seeds stick to everything--your clothes, the cat--so it spreads really fast from one year to the next.

Another user said, "I don't think it can compete with a healthy lawn." It may not be a problem for those of you in Texas where it's sunny all the time but here in Oregon the sticky plant is taking over grass in the shady parts of my yard.

Negative mrsh600 On May 17, 2012, mrsh600 from Lake in the Hills, IL wrote:

HATE HATE HATE this one...it has taken over our raspberry patch...and is growing all over the flower beds...sticky, irritating plant. Our neighbor thought she had poison ivy last summer, but I looked everywhere in her yard, saw no poison ivy, but plenty of this weed...it's everywhere. If any of you live in NE IL....I pulled up a garbage CAN FULL of the stuff up and I still have more to go if u want it lol We didn't plant it either...

Negative tummy On May 6, 2012, tummy from Courtdale, PA wrote:

Is anyone allergic to this plant/weed/cleavers? I break out with a rash comparable to poision ivy. I would like to know how to kill it naturally. Also,if a person is allergic to this plant, can they use it for it medicinal properties?

Positive plant_it On May 6, 2012, plant_it from Valparaiso, IN wrote:

Native to North America but can get weedy/invasive. http://wimastergardener.org/?q=CatchweedBedstraw

One site says it's an important food plant for deer, in which case I must have the happiest deer in the world b/c this plant is everywhere!
http://www.noble.org/ag/wildlife/deerfoods/AppendixCCommon.h...
cleavers-weeds-make-bedstraw-for-deer/" target="_dgnew"rel="nofollow">http://wildeherb.com/2010/06/21/cleavers-weeds-make-bedstraw...

also "Herbalists have long regarded cleavers as a valuable lymphatic tonic and diuretic."
- http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail215.php

Negative Liz82 On Mar 17, 2012, Liz82 from Austin, TX wrote:

This plant is very invasive! If you are not careful it will take up your entire yard, and it can choke out other plants by climbing up on them and just making itself at home. right now I am trying to fight it off & pull any I see - it is strangling all my other plants & honey sickle in my drive way...I do not like this plant at all :(

Negative seamus22 On Jul 31, 2011, seamus22 from great chart
United Kingdom wrote:

We live in a fairly rural area in southeast England surrounded by farmland. Last week, our Jack Russell went off in search of rabbits and came back with both eyes surrounded by red, inflamed patches of raw skin, in addition to scrapes on his chest and legs. We had no idea what had happened and rushed him to the vet. The vet told us it was chemical burns and treated him with antihistamines and an ointment for the burns. We searched the whole area and found nothing. Then my husband took him for a walk on a leash and saw firsthand what had happened. He ran through the soybean field which had loads of goosegrass. As he ran, he closed his eyes and the goosegrass scraped across his eyelids and body. This is a nasty plant!

Neutral Draines22 On May 31, 2011, Draines22 from Salem, OR wrote:

We have plenty of Sticky Willy in Salem, OR. At least it is easy to
pull out and get rid of, or it has been for me. I hate it sticking to me.
It does have some usefulness and is edible.

Neutral cacatua On May 23, 2011, cacatua from Story City, IA wrote:

Catchweed is what it is - a thug. The only good thing now about pulling it is that it sticks together in this big blob, and every so often I can hurl the ball of it away and begin another one. I do have fond memories of it from several years ago though. I had a camel and a donkey and they both loved the stuff so I would collect it in these big balls in the woods and toss it over the fence to them. The camel would get this big goofy grin and begin munching happily away, but then camels love thistles, gooseberry bushes and multiflora rose bushes as well.

I don't like the feel of catchweed but it has never given me a rash as someone else mentioned, and the smell is pleasant. I have one variety of bedstraw that has the wonderful smell of new-mown hay.

Negative noslouch On Jun 23, 2010, noslouch from Rathdrum, ID wrote:

This is a truly evil, invasive plant. It was never invited to live here with us. The delicate flowers are misleading. You'll get a terrible rash if it makes skin contact. Be sure to wear long sleeves and gloves when you attempt to eradicate. It appears all over, even in well established flower and vegetable beds plus all over our 10 acres of forest. I am totally commited to organic gardening practices so will continue to keep yanking this crap-sandwich plant.

Negative vossner On Feb 27, 2010, vossner from Richmond, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

I consider it a weed. Only good thing is that it's easy to pull off.

Positive texasflora_com On Dec 27, 2009, texasflora_com from De Leon, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

In my area, Sticky willy germinates in the late fall and is one of the few annuals to stay green after frosts, freezes and snow. Right now, it's covering the entire ground in deep shade in some woods here. As far as its negative aspect, I don't think it can compete with a healthy lawn and if it comes up in flower beds, pull it while it's young and mulch more.

Positive StephieG On May 25, 2008, StephieG from Holts Summit, MO wrote:

Updated - April 2009
I wrote about our dog and this plant last year.
This year she (the dog) is completely healed and still eating
this weed and has all the other dogs eating it also.
They love it for some reason. It is pretty coarse and sticky,
it is hard to believe they like it so much.
We have 2 new dogs we are taking care of this year and
they also are eating this weed. They have eaten all of it
that is inside our 1 acre fenced yard, all along the fence line. So I go outside the fence line and pick it and they eat it out
of my hand as fast as I pick it .... like it is a great treat or
something!
Anyway,,,, they are eating it so fast that it is not going to
be able to go to seed and I think next year there will not
be any in the yard!
So for the people who want to get rid of this weed... see if your pets will eat it!

My original post last spring/summer:
I live in Missouri.
I am sure this plant has been in our yard and all over our land for years but I never noticed it.
This year (2008) in March we began caring for a dog which had been hit by a car. She is a very large dog. The first few weeks at our home she could not even walk so we would haul her into the yard on any nice days in a cart.
As soon as she could sit up and scoot around she went to this patch and started eating this weed.
As the weeks went on she always returned to this weed and could pick it out even when other weeds were all around it.
I don't know what it is about it but I figured maybe it was helping her heal. Plus I she was not eating very well and I was force feeding her for about a month after her surgery.

Anyway, she now has all of my dogs eating this weed so I finally looked it up on the internet and found this information about it.

Now it has been about 2.5 months after her surgery and she now walks pretty well and can run/hop. Even though this weed has gotten tall and coarse she still eats it.

She is in another part of the yard after she could start walking but she found a new patch in the fence row and I now see her and my other dogs laying down there munching on this sticky weed like cows.

Neutral chicochi3 On May 16, 2007, chicochi3 from Fayetteville, AR (Zone 6b) wrote:

This plant is a pest, but on the positive side, it's rather pretty and real easy to pull up!

Positive Sherlock_Holmes On Jun 26, 2006, Sherlock_Holmes from Millersburg, PA (Zone 6a) wrote:

Unlike in most areas, here Cleavers is a native species. And while most consider it to be a noxious weed, I don't. Here is some information from The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America by Francois Couplan, Ph.D.

"The young shoots of G. aparine are edible raw. Older leaves and stems become impregnated with silicon and are too tough to be used as food. The long stems and the leaf margins are lined with hooked bristles and stick together. They were formerly used as a filter to strain milk and other liquids.

The fruits are one of the best coffee substitutes. They should be picked when their color turns from green to brown, and then parched. After roasting, they develop a distinctive aroma strongly reminiscent of coffee (Coffea spp.). It must be noted that coffee, like cleavers, also belongs to the Rubiaceae family.

This plant contains a glucoside, asperuloside.

It is an antispasmodic, antihypertensive, diuretic, and diaphoretic. Externally, cleavers has been employed as a vulnerary."

Here is some more information from A Handbook of Native American Herbs by Alma R. Hutchens.

"Bodily Influence: Diuretic, tonic, refrigerant, alterative, aperient.

Uses: Notably one of our best-known herbs for obstruction of the urinary organs, especially when combined with broom, bearberry, buchu, and marshmallow. It is particularly useful for stones or gravel and seems to soften and reduce calculus so it can be eliminated without impeding the bowels.

For children or adults suffering from scalding urine it is invaluable, and the refrigerant qualities are soothing in cases of scarlet fever, measles, and all acute diseases. In Vitalogy (1925) Drs. Wood and Ruddock say: "The cold infusion will remove freckles when it is drunk two or three times a day, for two or three months and the parts frequently washed with it, and had recently been used with decided success in treating children for bed wetting, it should be drunk three times a day."

Claudia V. James (1963) gives us another use: "The juice mixed with oatmeal to the consistency of a poultice and applied over an indolent tumor, three times a day, keeping the bowels open, and taking a teaspoonful of the juice every morning will often drive the tumor away in a few days. It is one of the best known herbs for reducing."

For weight loss, cup of the fresh or dried herb in pint of boiling water, one-third of the amount taken three times a day.

Externally: Cleavers may be used in all acute diseases and deep perplexing psoriasis, eczema, cancer, scrofula, ulcers, and all skin trouble. An infusion is prepared by macerating 1 ounces of the herb in 1 pint of warm water for 2 hours.

Dose: 2-4 ounces given three or four times a day cold; may be sweetened with honey or brown sugar. Of the tincture, 20-40 drops in water three or four times a day."

Negative jbrowitt On May 10, 2006, jbrowitt from Lewiston, ID wrote:

We are overrun with Catchweed and my (unsuccessful) solution is to pull it as soon as I see it ... it requires too much vigilance for my taste, even the birds don't seem to like it. It tends to damage more fragile plants as it is pulled because it is so sticky and tenacious.

Neutral CaptMicha On May 3, 2006, CaptMicha from Brookeville, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

My judgement of this weed isn't too harsh. Most likely I haven't been able to observe it's thuggishness because it's pitted against much worse weeds on my property like rose, honeysuckle, virginia creeper, garlic mustard, etc.

Negative raisedbedbob On Feb 11, 2006, raisedbedbob from Walkerton, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

This is a really nasty weed; however it is edible! The young shoots can be boiled for 10-15 minutes and serves with butter. The ripe fruit can be slow roasted until dark brown and ground to yield a coffee substitute.

Negative seekingSol On Aug 24, 2005, seekingSol from Reading, MA (Zone 6a) wrote:

Catchweed is considered invasive or noxious in many parts of the US, Canada and Australia. It is difficult to control, let alone to eradicate. I've had some luck smothering large patches under a foot or so of leaves, then hand-pulling the stuff that pops through. It is an annual, so I've been trying to pull it before it goes to seed in early summer. Be very careful with this one!

Negative gacarnegie On Apr 14, 2005, gacarnegie from Davis, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

It's all over here in the Sacramento valley and it's a real pest. Remove it as fast as you can and use gloves because it's really irrating to skin... I get rashes and even small boils when it comes into contact with my skin.

Negative melody On Mar 3, 2005, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

This plant emerges in late winter here in West KY. I spend the better part of the next 3 months pulling it out. Despite it's herbal properties, I still don't like it...there will always be plenty on this property if I ever want to make a tea.

The brittle vines break and it is impossible to get the whole plant. Every little piece seems to be able to regenerate.

Positive htop On Mar 4, 2004, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Although this plant is a fast grower and rambles over everything in its path, as an herb it is used as a dried extract (capsules and powders), in herbal teas and even eaten raw. When researching this plant, I was amazed at how many ailments it is supposed to relieve including the following: allergies, kidney disfunction, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) because it is a diuritic, PMS, lymphatic system dysfunction, strep throat, tonsillitis, adenoid ailments, ulcers and tumors. It is even sited as an herbal remedy for horse "sweet itch" ("summer itch") caused by a horse's allergic reaction to sandfly bites because it is supposed to help strengthen the coat and to assist in cleansing the blood by clearing the lymphatic system of toxins. Rather than listing them all because they are so numerous, just type in its scientific name in a search engine and see what you find.

I have a new appreciation for it and will not be so unkind to it as I have in the past. One of the many, many common names for it is "angelic root" because the root of the plant has medicinal uses as well as the rest of the plant parts. Before attempting to ID it and not knowing of its herbal value, I would have given it a negative rating. From now on, I guess when I yank it up from my grass and flowerbeds, I'll eat it or use it in an herbal tea!! :o)

Positive Daan On Jan 17, 2004, Daan wrote:

In the Edwardian Age people used to get a whole bunch of Sticky Willy and put it in hot water and drink it for a whole month. It seemed to make their skin very beautiful and that heaps of people fell in love with them.

Negative ayan On Jun 3, 2003, ayan wrote:

In the southeast US, catchweed bedstraw is an obnoxious weed. It grows very quickly, starting in early summer: one day you'll have a huge spreading clump clambering over grass, up fences, and across beds. It pulls easily from the ground -- but the brittle stems break, leaving pieces that will regrow, and the little sticky/burred seedpods cling to socks, grass, pets, everything. If you see even a small clump, grab it as soon as possible.

I haven't tried chemical controls; I just rip and rip until it gives up for the summer. The sap is mildly irritating to my skin, so wash your hands and arms if you don't want a red rash. I wouldn't recommend composting, and I certainly wouldn't plant this as any kind of ornamental.

Negative Terry On Apr 3, 2003, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

I can see why it's listed as a noxious weed in several areas; it has a prostrate habit, its stems "stick" to anything that brushes against it, and the flowers are tiny compared to the rest of the plant.

When it first appeared, I was anxious to see what my mystery plant was, and even hoped it might be a good candidate to transplant and cultivate, but once it started growing, I quickly realized it has few - if any - redeeming qualities. I think I'll stick with G. odoratum :)

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

,
Vincent, Alabama
Fayetteville, Arkansas
Napa, California
Apopka, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
Lewiston, Idaho
Lake In The Hills, Illinois
Mount Prospect, Illinois
Flora, Indiana
Valparaiso, Indiana
Story City, Iowa
Barbourville, Kentucky
Benton, Kentucky
Georgetown, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Brookeville, Maryland
Valley Lee, Maryland
Reading, Massachusetts
Raymond, Mississippi
Belton, Missouri
Piedmont, Missouri
Missoula, Montana
Fair Lawn, New Jersey
Baldwinsville, New York
Brooklyn, New York
Akron, Ohio
Glouster, Ohio
Lebanon, Oregon
Millersburg, Pennsylvania
Tioga, Pennsylvania
Austin, Texas (2 reports)
Dallas, Texas
De Leon, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas (2 reports)
Houston, Texas
Richmond, Texas
San Antonio, Texas (2 reports)
Lynchburg, Virginia
Seattle, Washington
Vancouver, Washington



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