Sticky Willy can also be consumed as a tea, according to several other herbal sources. “The Handbook of Alternatives to Chemical Medicine” suggests steeping 1 teaspoon of crushed leaves in 1 cup of boiling water to promote weight loss and soothe irritation of the urinary tract. Or cook it with beans, to add flavor and reduce flatulence. Sticky Willy Beano?
Some enterprising folks dry and roast sticky Willy seeds and use them as a caffeine-free coffee substitute, according to “Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest.”
And if you want to keep sticky Willy from coming back next spring, pull it (or mow it) as soon as you see it. Otherwise, after it blooms, it will throw off seed that will turn into next year’s sticky Willy problem.
Some gardeners call it the Velcro plant. Others know it as cleavers or sticky weed. My favorite common name for Galium aparine? Sticky Willy.
Last weekend, after two hours of nonstop weed pulling (henbit and chickweed as well as S. Willy), I removed strands of sticky Willy from my pant legs, my work boots – and the back of my head. Ugh.
Here’s what certified Austin herbalist Ellen Zimmermann of Sharing the Wisdom of the Plants (www.ezherbs.net) says about sticky Willy: “Cleavers, Galium aparine is a highly valuable medicinal herb. It is used to boost the immune system, particularly to support and cleanse the lymph system. It is also quite useful as a urinary astringent as it assists with inflammation. It is a wonderful spring tonic, cooling for fevers and acts (in older herbal terms) as a blood purifier.”
Now that I know that sticky Willy is much more than a weed, am I finding it less annoying? Not really. I might consider keeping a small patch of it in a side yard, but I’m ready for it to be gone and, if possible, stay gone from my backyard.
The cleaver game was called ‘sticky willies’ — I know, sounds a bit troubling now, but the name was around before we found the game.
Plants, even the ones we often dismiss as weeds, have fascinating backstories. Cleavers get their common name for their reputation to cleave to — as their hairy stem and fuzzy seed structure does adhere easily to passers-by — so their stems and seed may stick to your clothes or the fur of your pet and make their way back from a walk, right into your garden. What a cool way to disperse the next generation — hitchhike. A sneaky trait, but you’ve got to admire efficiency and tenacity.
Remove cleavers regularly by hand, or hoe off young seedlings before they set seed. Avoid getting seeds on clothing, as this can inadvertently spread it around the garden. Mulch borders with a 5cm layer of garden compost or composted bark to suppress seedlings.
I am a bit of a fan of wild beverages and forage-knowledge, so I appreciate that Galium is a relative of coffee and alongside chicory (Cichorium intybus), makes one of the more superior coffee substitutes – the roasted seed rather than the roots are my preference. Galium has a Greek etymology linking to ‘milk’ and the selection of that name for its nomenclature indicates its connection with the dairy industry — not just as a sieve tool but also for centuries it has been employed as a curdling agent in yoghurt and cheese production.
Do Time to act in April
A short-lived plant that grows sticky mats of foliage, which can swamp cultivated plants. It produces sticky seeds, which can be spread around the garden by animals and on clothing.
Do not Time to act in December