Catchweed Bedstraw (Galium aparine) is a member of the madder family.
I grow Red Madder (Rubia tinctorum) so I was familiar with the velcro-like teeth covering the leaves of members of this clan. You can see them somewhat in this photo:
Those little fibers are tenacious grabbers. No wonder the name catchweed. It’s also called cleavers, and in modern times, velcro plant.
Until two years ago, I never saw catchweed in my yard. Then I brought some seeds in with a bale of straw, and it’s spreading around like wildfire. I used the straw as mulch around my blackberry plants, and when the catchweed began to grow, so did the blackberry canes, protecting the catchweed from my weeding efforts quite nicely. The catchweed went to seed. It was all over at that point. One catchweed plant (which can go from germination to flowering in only 8 weeks, by the way) can produce 100 to 400 seeds apiece. Or more. Those little seeds went everywhere when I finally got in there to tear the viney plants out with a rake. As much as I thought I was containing them, it was no use.
So now I think catchweed is here to stay. The seeds remain viable for up to three years, and those seeds have a little hook on them like the leaves, so they travel easily. I am trying to pull them up wherever I find the little babies all over the yard, before they go to seed, but it will be an ongoing challenge.
Like Red Madder, the roots of Catchweed have been used to make a red dye. Perhaps I’ll try it one day in self defense when I’m overcome with this stuff. The seeds can be roasted to make a coffee substitute (it’s related to coffee) and catchweed was once used to stuff mattresses because the bristly stuff doesn’t mat down very easily. It would have to be covered in some pretty thick ticking to make me want to bed down on top of it. I have to use gloves to weed it out, especially when the plants are starting to get big.
Medicinally, catchweed is listed as anti-inflammatory. I guess that’s to make up for its inflammatory effect on my skin.
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