I HAD a right rant about the spindly weeds from hell that invade my garden every year. Jill Lucas of Fixby responded.
“In Suffolk, one of the plant's local names is Gentlemen's Tormentors, highly appropriate in your case,” she says.
Highly appropriate for short gentlemen in shorts, I say.
“It is also known as Cleavers, Sticky Willy (or Sticky Billy) and Goosegrass among others. The whole plant is covered in tiny hooked bristles which enable it to stick to anything.”
Jill quotes various learned sources to tell me its good points.
For instance, it was used to get hairs out of milk obtained from goats and sheep, a method still practised in parts of Sweden. It is also feed for geese and goslings.
Beer was brewed from the plant and it can be used as a substitute for coffee. Medicinally it has been used to treat skin complaints, insomnia, as a diuretic, tonic, aperient and a solvent for bladder stones.
An ointment made from the stems and leaves was used as a treatment for ulcers. It has been recommended for earache and is said to be a remedy for bites from snakes, spiders and all venomous creatures.
“So, rather than having 'no purpose in life but to annoy and sting you', it is used as food, drink, an aid to good housekeeping and good health,” says Jill.
And, do you know, I still hate it.