Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1. My grandmother used goosegrass to help a leg ulcer my grandfather had.  (I don’t think it worked very well, my grandfather ended up having the leg amputated).  This was in Pembrokeshire in west Wales, but my grandparents were originally from Berkshire [Ruskin Park, London, October 2019].

2.  Known as Jack-in-the-hedge here in rural west Wexford [Donard, Co. Wexford, July 2017].

3.  In New Zealand we call the seeds of cleavers biddy-bids [Holland Park, London, June 2015].

4.  In New Zealand we used to call that [cleavers] pinweed [Tooting Common, London, May 2015].

5.  Goosegrass – known as robin-run-the-hedge in my maternal family from Donegal, northwest Ireland.  Used frequently by my mother (b.1951), grandmother (b.1920) and me! [Holland Park, London, June 2014].  Name also used in Co. Armagh in the 1960s [Sutton, Surrey, August 2014].

6. I spent most of my childhood in Cumbria, nearest city Carlisle … in the 1950s. Goosegrass … was sticky with burs and twined everywhere through the hedgerows, but ripping it up and chucking it at your friend’s retreating back meant, if it stuck, she had a boyfriend/admirer; if it fell away the hopes were dashed! [e-mail, January 2013].

7. Goosegrass/cleavers – fun can be had by playing a kind of tag game with them, you tag somebody with them and by the time they have removed them you have run a fair distance [Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, September 2011].

8. We have a cottage in Derbyshire and the garden has lots of cleavers which I drink as a spring tonic [Putney, London, March 2011].

9. I was born and bred in the house I still live in part of … We used to nibble shoots of goosegrass .. and we still feed to whole plant to our ducks [Muchelney, Somerset, January 2007].

10. [Shropshire, Mardu] Goosegrass: Clumps were made into rough balls and thrown at clothing. The number of stickers left on one’s clothing indicated the number of suitors one could expect. A tea made from the stalks and leaves, gargled will rid obstructions in the throat, even goitres and cancer [Newcastle-on-Clun, Shropshire. November 2004].

11. A Lincolnshire name for goosegrass: Sticky Jim [Tooting Common, London, July 2004].

12. In Ireland – in Dublin, where I come from – we call goosegrass sticky-backs [Holland Park, London, May 2004].

13. In Berkshire we used to call goosegrass fruits sweethearts [Barnehurst, Kent, August 2003].

14. I grew up in west Somerset between 1914 and 1939… local plant names … cly = goosegrass [Breage, Cornwall, October 1993].

15. [Kettering-Wellingborough-Raunds area, Northamptonshire] Galium aparine known … as mothers-in-law. Work out your own reasons [Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, November 1991].

16. Goosegrass (cleavers), Galium aparine. Thrown on a girl’s back. If it stuck without her being aware of it, she had a sweetheart. If she took it off and dropped it, it would form the initial of the sweetheart-to-be (Sussex/Kent, 1920s-30s) [Farnham, Surrey, December 1985].

Images:  main, Dartford, Kent, January 2015; inset, Hereford, July 2018.