04 May 2015
Cleavers: Galium aparine
As children (and adults) we love to make garlands, fairy crowns and corsages out of the abundant, and local Galium aparine, aka Cleavers. The fine hairs of the leaves, stems, and seeds tipped with tiny hooks, allow this lovely plant to attach - or cleave - to clothes, fur, hair and more.
Cleavers is an herbaceous annual with long stems that climbs and sprawls over the ground and other plants. The lanceolate leaves are simple and borne in whorls of six to eight, and the white to greenish flowers are 2-3 mm across with four petals. It flowers in early spring to summer, and each seed is 4-6 mm in diameter. The peak potency for harvesting is when both flower and seeds are present.
Cleavers has been used in medicine for centuries. Greek herbalists recommended it for swellings and ear ache. Celtic druids used it for skin, among other things using the juice to wash the skin to rid it of spots. The Eclectic herbalists recommended it as a diuretic.
The ancient Greeks saw that the long slender stems look like long tubes – and so it was used to clear the lymph tubes of the body. The seeds - brown, fuzzy and coming in pairs - were used to support men's reproductive function including the prostate. Modern herbalists still work with Cleavers to support these systems.
Cleavers is another local plant that you will find along roadsides, in ditches, and near streambeds. It is abundant and has much to communicate and share with us when we stop to listen.