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STICKY WILLY : Gallium aparine

Also known as cleavers, clivers, catchweed, "robin-run-the-hedge",  hitchhikers, bedstraw, goosegrass (not to be confused with other plants known as goosegrass), catchweed, stickyweed, sticky bob, stickybud, stickyback, sticky molly,  sticky willow, stickyjack, stickeljack, grip grass, sticky grass, bobby buttons, whippysticks, velcro plant, and bort. We will stick with sticky willy, which is how it is best known here.

This is an annual with creeping straggling stems which branch and grow along the ground and over other plants. They can be considered opportunist in that they  depend a great deal on the support of other plants, although when seen in clumps they appear quite self-supporting. This is aided by small hooked hairs which grow out of the stems and leaves. 

They appear in spring as fresh green shoots and spread rapidly through or onto their host plants. And they attach themselves to almost anything that brushes against them - including us.

The stems can reach up to three feet or longer, and are angular or square shaped.

In due course, small clusters of tiny white flowers appear.

They are not unattractive, but their tendency to overrun other plants can be irritating and when they die and dry in autumn, they leave boring and tatty brown straggling lines behind. 

Sticky willy ie galium aparine is edible. The leaves and stems of the plant can be cooked as a leaf vegetable if gathered before the fruits appear. They make a useful addition to vegetable soups. It is said that using this plant as a vegetable has a slimming effect on the body. However, the numerous small hooks which cover the plant and give it its clinging nature can make it less palatable if eaten raw. Cleavers are in the same family as coffee. The fruits of cleavers have often been dried and roasted, and then used as a coffee substitute that contains less caffeine – Although considering the effort required to gather enough fruit, it may not be worth the effort.

A decoction of the whole dried plant gives a drink equal to tea.

Also see FORAGING : index.asp?pageid=731714

TOTALLY WILD UK : https://totallywilduk.co.uk/2020/04/29/identify-cleavers/

WIKIPEDIA : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galium_aparine

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