Galium aparine, with its covering of tiny hooked hairs is much more frequently referred to as Cleavers, Stickyweed, Goosegrass, Stickywilly, Hedge Burs and Catchweed. An herbaceous annual plant, it thrives in many environments such as field margins, scrub, hedgebanks, gardens and arable and wasteland. This range of habitats, coupled with its ability to clamber several metres over other plants, rather aptly gives it the term ‘weed’. It has distinctive whorls of 6-8 leaves arranged around a 4-angled stem. Flowers consist of 4 tiny white petals that develop into fruits also covered in hooked hairs. These burs are obviously well adapted to being carried away from the parent plant by passing animals and this has doubtless contributed to its very large distribution range globally.
(Photographs by the author)
According to the RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses (Brown, 2008) Cleavers has a number of medicinal properties that have been utilised for thousands of years. Infusions have been used to treat various ailments including kidney problems, skin conditions and high blood pressure. Today the plant is still harvested in Norfolk to be used in herbal remedies, although there is a lack of scientific evidence to support any medicinal value.