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What is That Plant in the Ivy?

We are very excited to partner with Dolby Laboratories for a special Nature in your Neighborhood project for Dolby Cares Week. A time when Dolby brings art and science together to inspire the next generation of innovators, and address the most critical needs in their communities. Thank you for contribution to Sutro Stewards!

By: Marie Niven

Like many parents during these pandemic times, we have been taking our toddler for walks around the neighborhood. We identify different animals and insects and their purpose, as well as different kinds of plants. We talk about what color the plants are, whether they are “big” or “tiny”, and whether we can touch or eat them.

On a recent neighborhood walk my son pointed out an interesting looking plant that was twined in the ivy in our neighbor’s yard, looking like a vine of some sort. I remember seeing some flowers and leaves in the ivy before, but never this specific plant.

It turns out this plant’s scientific name is Galium Aparine. It has many non-scientific names, such as catchweed bedstraw, stickywilly (my son loves this name), goosegrass, velcro weed, and grip grass. It is an edible, wild, annual herb and is native to California. With a fast growth rate, goosegrass is considered a weed in most places. It can grow almost 11 inches tall and has white flowers that typically bloom in the spring (April-May). As you can see in the photos, these plants have not bloomed yet, but I am hoping we will see some flowers shortly.

Galium Aparine prefers loamy and clay soils and does not grow well in sandy soils. You can see the interesting texture on the leaves in the photos below, which is somewhat clingy and I assume is what led to some of the plants common names, such as “velcro weed” and “grip grass”. Stickywilly has many documented medicinal uses by Native Americans, including as a laxative, dermatological aid, poison, and even as a love medicine.

Next time you walk by some ivy, take a closer look and see if you can see some sitckywilly hiding among the leaves!


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