If you walk through a patch of bedstraw, you’ll know it right away. The stalks grow long and sprawling, and will wrap around your ankles. But they also are sticky! And the leaves are studded with tiny hook-like bristles! They don’t hurt to brush up against, but they certainly do cling. Its other names include goose grass, cleavers – and stickywilly.
The flowers of Galium aparine are tiny, white, four-petalled stars. But the plant’s most distinctive feature is its leaves: they stick out all around the stem like the spokes on a wagon wheel. Bristly, green, tongue-shaped spokes.
Bedstraw is widespread – not only across California, but throughout the US and southern South America, as well as Europe. A Scottish friend was just telling me that kids will grab handfuls and stick it on one another as a game. It’s listed as a native both in California and in Europe, but is described as an invasive/non-native in other states (like Arizona), so it is clearly aggressive. Bedstraw is used as a medicinal plant, taken as a tincture, juice or tea to treat maladies such as adenoids, nodules, kidney stones, roseola, and cough. It’s also been used on the skin to treat psoriasis, and eczema.