For many gardeners, this spring has brought an invader that seems supercharged and has popped up in many garden beds and areas that are not managed. It has many common names such as bedstraw, cleavers, catchweed bedstraw, sticky-weed or sticky-willie, to name just a few. Its botanical name is Galium aparine. If you have ever fought with it, you will remember it, even it you didn’t know its name.
Bedstraw produces small, white flowers followed by many small fruit that contain two seeds each. The round, green fruit and seeds are also prickly cling-tights. It is very easy for people or animals to pick up a load of hitchhiking seeds and transport them to a new area. The leaf layout is distinctive. The six to eight narrow, green leaves are arranged in whorls around the stem.
Bedstraw. Photo credit: Ted Bodner, plants.usda.gov
Bedstraw grows rapidly in the spring and has long, weak stems and leaves that cling to everything like Velcro. Bedstraw climbs haphazardly over all of the surrounding plants, creating a sticky tangle of vines. Both the leaves and the stems have fine hairs tipped with tiny hooks. Because of its rapid growth, it can shade out smaller plants in a short time. When bedstraw grows in the sun, the prickly hairs are more robust than on shaded plants and can be more irritating to those pulling it out. The irritation is similar to being sandpapered. If you are sensitive to this scratchy plant, wear long sleeves and gloves when removing it.
Every spring, some obnoxious or annoying weed becomes a big pest in many yards and gardens. Andy Warhol’s statement made long ago could also be applied to weeds: “They all get their 15 minutes of fame.” Some magic confluence of temperatures and rainfall has favored it over all the other weeds residing in many yards.
The annual weed bedstraw has made its presence known across Michigan gardens.
One of the most dreaded of weeds, Mares Tail can spread like wildfire so if you see it, deal with.
Remove Sticky Willy 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.
Often remembered from childhood, goose grass or sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick.
Horse or Mares Tail
At Vialii, we are strong proponents of organic gardening and try to avoid weedkiller if we can. To many people, weeds are wonderful things, whether they are grown as pretty wildflowers or for their health benefits. But we understand they can be frustrating in gardens so our Weedipedia pages detail our most common weeds, how to identify & get rid of them but also their benefits too. If you need help getting rid of your own weeds please get in touch.
The leaves and stems of the plant can be cooked as a leaf vegetable if gathered before the fruits appear.
Often remembered from childhood, goose grass or sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick to your clothes. It’s an annual and easy removed but also easily spreads with its self sown seedlings. Can grow up to 4ft high. Sticky Willy can grow rapidly during warm weather. The sticky stems are able to scramble around the garden, smothering small, cultivated plants and setting masses of seed. It’s usually introduced on the coats of animals, birds’ feathers or human clothing. Its lifecycle is approximately eight weeks from germination to setting seed.
Sticky Willy is a reliable herb and is used to clean urinary stones and to treat urinary infections.