Sticky weed, sticky willy, bedstraw, or velcro plant as it’s otherwise lovingly referred to is actually called Galium aparine. “Galium comes from the Greek word ‘gala’ or milk referring to some species of Galium ability to curdle milk” and aparine, also derived from Greek, means “to seize” or “cling”. (1) Both qualities make sticky weed a surprisingly useful and menacing plant.
Sticky weed is native to vast regions of North America and thusly Texas; however, for the home-gardener and farmer sticky weed can invade planting beds and outcompete cultivated varieties. Due to its clinging nature it can entangle itself in and around plants, blocking out the sun and using up water and nutrients.
So, what can be done about it?
Sticky weed is an annual, which means if you act fast enough and prevent the seed heads from dropping you can drastically reduce the amount you find in your yard the following seasons. When dealt with immediately, in early Spring, sticky weed is easy to pull or dig up as long as you are gentle enough to pull out the root with the plant. If you leave the roots intact a new plant will grow next year. Leave the plants in the ground too long and they will start to form their signature hook-like hairs attaching themselves to neighboring plants.
Not only can this damage the tender foliage of these neighboring plants while weeding, it can also irritate the skin and make them more difficult to work with. The seed heads themselves, once formed, create burrs that cling to clothes and animal fur. This helps to disperse the seeds, which is good news for the plant bad news for you. This is yet another reason to deal with the plants as early as possible.
Of course, once you carefully pull out all the sticky weed you can find, you can either dispose of it in a safe space, or eat it! That’s right Galium was not just used to curdle milk is was actually ingested on its own. In fact, it’s not just edible it’s considered medicinal, helping to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation among other remedies. A common use for Galium apron is to steep it and drink it as a tea. This is in part due to it being a member of the rubiaceae family, or more commonly known as the coffee family. Sticky weed is best ingested at a young age, before the hairs have formed. However, even at maturity it can still be boiled and the tea ingested, just be sure to strain it well!
To help prevent more sticky weed from growing in the future a good measure of defense is to have healthy lawns and beds. A lawn that is full and lush will leave less room for sticky weed to grab hold. This can be achieved through a variety of methods. Corn gluten, used as an organic herbicide, can be spread on your yard pre-Spring to inhibit the weed roots from growing into the soil.
Mulching your plant beds also helps reduce the spread of weeds along with the multitude of other benefits it provides.