Catchweed bedstraw is native to North America and Eurasia. Usually I prefer to
photograph plants in the wild, but I put this one on the scanner to illustrate the tiny
hooks that make it stick like velcro to everything it touches. This and related plants
are called bedstraws because a fragrant-smelling yellow-flowered species, Galium verum,
was used to stuff mattresses in medieval times.
Some members of Galium:
Leaf underside. · 6/9/2010 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, Massachusetts
7/15/2019 · Beaver Brook Conservation Area, New Long Loop, Hollis, New Hampshire ≈ 8 × 6" (19 × 16 cm)
Stem is square stem, purplish in the spring, green as the plant matures. All parts of the plant are covered with tiny velcro-like hooks.
Up to 3' (1 m), vinelike. Stems are square and smooth.
Low-growing plant may reach 20" (50 cm) in length, but only about 8" (20 cm) in height. Plants have an appealing sweet scent
4-petaled, white, ⅛" (3.2 mm) around, appearing from May to July.
Hundreds of tiny white 4-petaled flowers ⅛" (3.2 mm) across, producing white masses.
Small white flowers, each ⅛-¼" (4-7 mm) in diameter, are raised above the leaves on thin stalks
Whorls of 6-8 leaves every few inches, each 1-2" (2.5-5 cm) long.
In whorls of 6-8, 1-1½" (2.5-3.8 cm) long, smooth.
¾-1¾" (2-5 cm) long, arranged in whorls of 6-9
USDA Zones: 4-8
Identification: The first thing that stands out about
catchweed bedstraw is the regular whorls of 6-8 leaves every few inches. They give it a neat,
orderly appearance. Leaves are 1-2" (2.5-5 cm) long. On closer inspection, there is the perfectly square stem, which may be
purplish in the spring, but is green as the plant matures. The 4-petaled flowers, which are white and
only ⅛" (3.2 mm) around, are barely noticeable, appearing from May to July. But touch this plant and you’ll immediately
know why it is called catchweed bedstraw or stickywilly. Every part of it—stems, leaves, flowers, and seed pods—are
covered with tiny velcro-like hooks. They give every part of the plant a sandpapery feel. The hooks allow the
plant to clamber over other plants, reaching heights of 5' (1.5 m) in some cases.
Edibility: Tender young shoot tips are edible raw or added to
soups and stews, though many people find them too bitter or object to their texture. They can also
be harvested before flowering and cooked as leaf vegetables, a more widely enjoyed alternative. Dried and lightly roasted seeds can serve
as a coffee substitute.
Medical: Stickywilly has many alleged medical uses,
too many to make sense of.