Goosegrass (Galium aparine)
|TY Biologists get hooked on goosegrass
Stems are square in cross-section and can grow up to 2 m long and sprawl along the ground or over other plants. Leaves are simple, elongate and slender, about 2 cm long, and are borne in whorls of 6-8 all the way along the stem. Flowering occurs from June to August and the flowers are small (2-3 mm) and white with 4 petals – occurring in most of the leaf nodes. Fruits are small, hard and spherical, turning from green to purple and occur in pairs. They are covered in small hooks and act as burrs which cling to fur and feathers etc. to aid dispersal.
Goosegrass is edible, is used as a herbal remedy and its roots can produce a red dye. The numerous hooks on the plant’s surface mean that it can’t really be eaten raw but when boiled (before the fruits appear) it can be eaten as a leaf vegetable, or the dried leaves can be used to make a herbal tea. The seeds can be lightly roasted and used as a coffee substitute. It is thought to be rich in vitamin C and was traditionally used to treat skin diseases, bladder infections and to lower blood pressure. There are written records of bunches of goosegrass being used to strain milk in the 1st Century AD in the process of cheese making, and it was supposedly used in the making of traditional Cheshire cheese in the 16th and 17th Centuries.