Galium, Greek, milk, one of the species having been used to curdle milk.
Annual trailing herb. In rich, shaded grounds. Naturalized from Europe. New Brunswick to the Dakotas, south to Florida and Texas. Frequent in northern Ohio. April-September.
Slender, procumbent, four-angled, retrorsely prickly, four to eight feet long.
In whorls of eight, sometimes fewer, linear-oblanceolate, one to two inches long.
White, small, in few-flowered clusters borne in the axils of the leaves.
Tubular, ovate, or globose.
Rotate, four-parted, white.
Ovary adnate to the calyx, of two united carpels; styles two.
Twin, dry, hairy.
Galium aperine is a plant of English hedges; driven from cultivated fields, it finds a refuge there, as our weeds find their refuge in fence corners. It came to this country very early and is now quite as much at home as any other early emigrant. Though an annual, it responds so quickly to the warmth of spring that it is able to bloom in April.
The plant sends its wandering, befrilled stems three to five feet away from the life-giving root, and this stem branches and spreads and scrambles and sprawls over everything within reach. Why it succeeds in this is clear to one who picks a branch; for that branch is so armed with sharp, stiff, backward-pointing prickles that the immediate problem is not to keep it but how to get rid of it.
The name Goose-Grass is said to refer to the fact that geese wandering along the hedges often became helplessly entangled in these stems to the detriment of their feathers. The old English nursery rhyme,
"Goosey, goosey, gander, Whither do ye wander?" is regarded as a reference to this danger. The many common names which the English people give the plant is proof that for some reason it was an object of considerable interest, and this from very early times. In addition to Goose-Grass, it also has the names Bedstraw, Cleavers, Robin-Run-in-the-Hedge, Love-Man, Bur-Weed, Catchweed, Cling-Rascal, Grip-Grass - and these are really only a few of those which it has acquired.
It also had a great reputation for its medicinal value, which reputation it seems to have lost. To-day it is simply a weed whose room is regarded much more desirable than its company.
Goose-Grass. Galium aperine