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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - March 25, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Seeds and Seeding, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Will native Galium aparine be a problem in Austin garden?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Should I be concerned that my yard is overrun with "sticky weed" (Galium aparine) in the early spring? Specifically, about five years ago I undertook converting about half my back yard into a native meadow, through sheet mulching followed by a mix of buffalo grass, bluestem, and wildflower seeds. It's been interesting to watch the changing succession of plants each year, but among the many volunteers it's hard for me to know which ones are invasives that I should try to control. For the past couple of years I have had a heavy growth of sticky weed in March, thick enough that I worry it will crowd out the spring flowers. I've been weeding it but if it's not an issue I'll leave it alone. (Interestingly, I'm not seeing the big invasion I used to have of non-native hemlock, Conium maculatum.)

ANSWER:

According to the USDA Plant Profile Map Galium aparine (Catchweed bedstraw) is native to Travis County, so it does belong here.

According to this USDA Plant Profile Map, it is also native to just about all of North America, including Alaska and most of the Canadian provinces. Just because a plant is native does not mean you have to let it grow if you don't want to.

If you follow this plant link, Galium aparine (Catchweed bedstraw), to the webpage on that plant in our Native Plant Database, here is some of the information you will find:

1. A weak-stemmed, reclining plant with backward-booked bristles on stems and leaves, and clusters of 1-3 (usually 2) very small white flowers on stalks. The common name is appropriate since the bristles cause the stems, leaves, and fruits to cleave to clothes and the fur of animals.

2. Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Shade
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium

3. From Google, pictures of Galium aparine (Catchweed bedstraw) seedlings

From our perspective, here are our takes on each of those pieces of information:

1. We sure wouldn't want any of those bristles in our clothing or fur.

2. If the bulk of your garden is in full sun (6 or more hours of sun a day), this plant will not do well there, because this plant requires shade (less than 2 hours of sun)

3. Since this plant is an annual, what you need to do if you decide you want to eliminate it is to pull out and dispose of the plant before it puts seeds on. This may take a few years because many plants have seeds that can lie dormant in the soil and reappear years later. If you know (from the pictures we linked you to above) what the seedlings look like, you can pull them out when they are still very small and prevent the setting of seeds at all.

Lesson we learned: Even though this plant is native, rather attractive and sweet-smelling, this one still looks like a nuisance and could easily shade out and inhibit other plants you prefer.

 

From the Image Gallery


Stickywilly
Galium aparine

Stickywilly
Galium aparine

Stickywilly
Galium aparine

Stickywilly
Galium aparine

Stickywilly
Galium aparine

Stickywilly
Galium aparine

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