Herb of the Week - Galium
|Cleavers, Galium aparine|
I have three galiums growing at my place right now:
- Cleavers, Galium aparine
- Northern Bedstraw, Galium boreale
- Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum
Cleavers (Galium aparine)
Cleavers. Wow, what can I say? It is a very prolific weed at my house. Yes, I said "weed." Ok, it's an herb too. But since I can pick it by the bushel-full out of every flower garden I have, it is a weed as well as an herb in my book. Herb-wise it is often used for its diuretic properties. I know more than one "pee tea" that includes this herb into its mix. Like many herbs, cleavers have a long list of herbal medicine uses beyond its use as a diuretic. Read more about the herbal medicine uses here.
In the days before frappuccinos, our coffee-loving ancestors tried to turn everything into a flavorful beverage. Sometimes they succeeded. Cleavers seed can be roasted and brewed for an excellent coffee substitute. Cleavers are reported to be edible, though I would think that I would find the prickly nature of them quite unpalatable.
Northern Bed Straw (Galium boreale)
|Northern Bedstraw, Galium boreale|
In an herbal-sense it can be used for a number of medicinal and utilitarian purposes though not as many as its clingy cousin. Northern bedstraw is reported to be edible as well. See here for the list its uses and edibility.
Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Sweet woodruff is a well-known and pretty spring bloomer. If you have a shady location that you want filled with a herbaceous groundcover, sweet woodruff is a good plant to consider. Though take care it is not a woodland you are introducing it to. This plant is native to Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia, not North America. Introduced, alien plants can be a problem unless controlled. I have a fir tree in our yard underplanted with sweet woodruff. It keeps to the ring of shade that the tree provides and is completely controllable that way.
|Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum|
Sweet woodruff also has a number of medicinal uses but care must be taken in using it since the plant contains coumarins which can interact with various medications and health conditions. It can also be used for dyes and strewing. Read more here about this herb's uses.