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Galium aparine

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Galium aparine, ('aparine' from Greek 'apairo' - "lay hold of" or "seize") <ref>http://climbers.lsa.umich.edu/?p=461</ref> with many common names including cleavers,<ref name=GRIN>Template:GRIN</ref> clivers, "bort", bedstraw, goosegrass,<ref name=GRIN/> catchweed,<ref name=GRIN/> stickyweed, stickybud, robin-run-the-hedge, sticky willy,<ref name=GRIN/><ref name="Irish">Template:Cite web</ref> sticky willow, stickyjack, stickeljack, and grip grass, is a herbaceous annual plant of the family Rubiaceae.

Description

Cleavers are annuals with creeping straggling stems which branch and grow along the ground and over other plants. They attach themselves with the small hooked hairs which grow out of the stems and leaves. The stems can reach up to three feet or longer, and are angular or square shaped.<ref name="Duke-2001-p100">Template:Cite book</ref> The leaves are simple, narrowly oblanceolate to linear, and borne in whorls of six to eight.<ref name="Duke-2001-p100" /><ref>Template:Cite book</ref><ref>Webb, D.A., Parnell, J. and Doogue, D. 1996. An Irish Flora. Dundalgan Press (W.Tempest) Ltd. Dundalk. 0-85221-131-7</ref>

Cleavers have tiny, star-shaped, white to greenish flowers, which emerge from early spring to summer. The flowers are clustered in groups of two or three, and are borne out of the leaf axils.<ref name="ModHerbal-p206">Template:Cite book</ref> The corolla bears 4 petals.<ref>Parnell, J. and Curtis, T. 2012 Webb's An Irish Flora Cork University Press. Template:ISBN</ref> The globular fruits are burrs which grow one to three seeds clustered together; they are covered with hooked hairs which cling to animal fur, aiding in seed dispersal.<ref name="ModHerbal-p206" />

Distribution

The species is native to a wide region of Europe, North Africa and Asia from Britain and the Canary Islands to Japan. It is now naturalized throughout most of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, some oceanic islands and scattered locations in Africa. Whether it is native to North America is a question of some debate, but it is considered to be native there in most literature.<ref>US Forest Service</ref> It is considered a noxious weed in many places.<ref>Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families</ref><ref>Biota of North America Program</ref>

Effects on the body

For some people, skin contact with Galium aparine causes an unpleasant localized rash<ref name="Evanoff">Template:Cite news[Link Evanoff]</ref> known as contact dermatitis.

Chemistry

Chemical constituents of Galium aparine include: iridoid glycosides such as asperulosidic acid and 10-deacetylasperulosidic acid,<ref>Iridoids from Galium aparine. D Deliorman, I Çalis, and F Ergun, Pharmaceutical Biology, 2001, Vol. 39, No. 3, Pages 234-235, Template:Doi</ref> asperuloside, monotropein and aucubin, alkaloids such as caffeine, phenolics such as phenolic acids, anthraquinone derivatives such as the aldehyde nordamnacanthal (1,3-dihydroxy-anthraquinone-2-al),<ref name=Morimoto>Antifeedant activity of an anthraquinone aldehyde in Galium aparine L. against Spodoptera litura F. Masanori Morimoto, Kumiko Tanimoto, Akiko Sakatani and Koichiro Komai, Phytochemistry, May 2002, Volume 60, Issue 2, Pages 163–166, Template:Doi</ref> flavonoids and coumarins, organic acids such as citric acid and a red dye.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>

Edibility

Galium aparine is edible. The leaves and stems of the plant can be cooked as a leaf vegetable if gathered before the fruits appear. However, the numerous small hooks which cover the plant and give it its clinging nature can make it less palatable if eaten raw.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref><ref name="Tull99">Tull, Delena. "Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest." 1999, p. 145</ref> Geese thoroughly enjoy eating G. aparine, hence one of its other common names, "goosegrass".<ref>Template:Cite book</ref> 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 which contains less caffeine.<ref name="Duke-2001-p100" /><ref>Template:Cite book</ref>

Folk medicine

Poultices and washes made from cleavers were traditionally used to treat a variety of skin ailments, light wounds and burns.<ref name="ModHerbal-p207" /> As a pulp, it has been used to relieve poisonous bites and stings.<ref>Jones, Pamela. Just Weeds: History, Myths, and Uses. Prentice Hall Press, New York. 1991.</ref> To make a poultice, the entire plant is used, and applied directly to the affected area.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref> Cleavers is also used as a lymphatic system aid, as it assists the lymph nodes in cleaning out toxins. Making a tea with the dried leaves is most common.<ref>https://www.achs.edu/blog/2012/05/14/extend-benefits-massage-part-2</ref> It can be brewed hot or cold. For a cold infusion, steep in water and refrigerate for 24–48 hours.

Other uses

Dioscorides reported that ancient Greek shepherds would use the barbed stems of cleavers to make a "rough sieve", which could be used to strain milk. Linnaeus later reported the same usage in Sweden, a tradition that is still practiced in modern times.<ref name="ModHerbal-p207">Template:Cite book</ref><ref>Loudon, John Claudius. "An encyclopædia of plants", 1836, p. 93</ref>

In Europe, the dried, matted foliage of the plant was once used to stuff mattresses. Several of the bedstraws were used for this purpose because the clinging hairs cause the branches to stick together, which enables the mattress filling to maintain a uniform thickness.<ref name="Tull99" /><ref>Template:Cite book</ref> The roots of cleavers can be used to make a permanent red dye.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>

Ecology

The plant can be found growing in hedges and waste places, limestone scree and as a garden weed.<ref>Hackney, P. (Ed)1992. Stewart & Corry's Flora of the North-east of Ireland. Third Edition. Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen's University of Belfast. Template:ISBN</ref><ref>Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G. and Warburg, E.F. 1968. Excursion Flora of the British Isles. Second Edition. Cambridge University Press.</ref>

G. aparine prefers moist soils and can exist in areas with poor drainage. It reportedly flourishes in heavy soils with above-average nitrogen and phosphorus content, and prefers soils with a pH value between 5.5 and 8.0. G. aparine is often found in post-fire plant communities in the United States, likely developing from onsite seed and therefore rendering controlled burns as an ineffective means of removing G. aparine in areas where it is considered a noxious weed.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Many insects feed on cleavers including aphids and spittlebugs.

The anthraquinone aldehyde nordamnacanthal (1,3-dihydroxy-anthraquinone-2-al) present in G. aparine has an antifeedant activity against Spodoptera litura, the Oriental leafworm moth, a species which is considered an agricultural pest.<ref name=Morimoto/> The Acari Cecidophyes rouhollahi can be found on G. aparine.<ref>A new species of Cecidophyes (Acari: Eriophyidae) from Galium aparine (Rubiaceae) with notes on its biology and potential as a biological control agent for Galium spurium. Charnie Craemer, Rouhollah Sobhian, Alec S. McClay and James W. Amrine Jr., International Journal of Acarology, 1999, Volume 25, Issue 4, pages 255-263, Template:Doi</ref>

Etymology

Galium is Dioscorides’ name for the plant. It is derived from the Greek word for ‘milk’, because the flowers of Galium verum were used to curdle milk in cheese making.<ref name="gledhill">Gledhill, David (2008). "The Names of Plants". Cambridge University Press. Template:ISBN (hardback), Template:ISBN (paperback). pp 52, 174</ref>

Aparine is a name used by Theophrastus for goosegrass. It is derived from Greek and means ‘clinging’ or ‘seizing’.<ref name="gledhill" />

Photos

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References

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Further reading

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