Friday, 8 April 2011

Hello to an old Spikey Friend - and Sticky Willy

Cleaning out the chickens today we came across a rather old friend. Well, old in hedgehog years.

Yes - the hedgehog that comes into our garden each year for the last three or so is back. At the moment he has built himself a cosy little nest under the chicken coop (last year we saw him a few times in the chicken run).

It's hard to know how long our little spikey chum will be with us as he's now quite old for a wild hedgehog, but with him chomping slugs n snails in the garden his presence is most welcome.

And the chickens don't seem to mind too much.

We have (cover the children's ears mother) "sticky willy" growing in the garden. It's just starting to sprout up now and is quite a vociferous grower year on year. I don't mind it too much, but I rip it up here and there just to keep it a bit under control, and I discovered that the chickens absolutely love it! Many plants they'll ignore,some they'll pick at -- but they seem to love sticky willy and absolutely devour it.

So I looked it up and apparently the plant is:

Galium aparine
Other names: Beggar's lice, Catchweed Bedstraw, Cleaverwort, Cleavers, Everlasting Friendship, Goose grass, Grip Grass, Scratch grass, Stick-a-back, Sticky Willie, Scarthgrass, Sticky-willy, White Hedge

According to Nicholas Culpepper  (17th century astrologer-physician):

"The juice of the herb and seed together, taken in wine, helpeth those bitten by an adder by preserving the heart from the venom.
"The distilled water drunk twice a day helpeth the yellow jaundice. The decoction of the herb stayeth laxes and bloody fluxes. The juice of the leaves, or the bruised leaves, applied to a wound stayeth the bleeding. Boiled in hog's grease, it helpeth all sorts of hard swellings or kernels in the throat when anointed."

According to a site on herbal remedies:

Cleavers is edible and medicinal, it has been used for centuries as an alternative medicine by indigenous peoples on many continents. It is edible raw though said to be unpalatable, mainly used as a pot-herb or as an addition to soups. Using the plant as a vegetable has a slimming effect on the body. Cleavers seed is one of the best coffee substitutes, it merely needs to be dried and lightly roasted and has much the same flavor as coffee. Cleavers has a long history of use as an alternative medicine and is still used widely by modern herbalists. It is used both internally and externally in the treatment of a wide range of ailments. The dried or fresh herb is alterative, anti-inflammatory, antiphlogistic, aperient, astringent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, tonic and vulnerary. A valuable diuretic, it is often taken to treat skin problems such as seborrhoea, eczema and psoriasis, and as a general detoxifying agent in serious illnesses such as cancer. The plant contains organic acids, flavonoids, tannins, fatty acids, glycoside asperuloside, gallotannic acid and citric acid. It has a mild laxative effect and stimulates the lymphatic system and has shown benefit in skin related problems. The fresh plant or juice is used as a medicinal poultice for wounds, ulcers and many other skin problems. An infusion of the herb has shown of benefit in the treatment of glandular fever, tonsilitis, hepatitis and cystitis. The infusion is also used to treat liver, bladder and urinary problems. The plant contains the valuable constituent asperuloside, a substance that is converted into prostaglandins by the body. Prostaglandins are hormone-like compounds that stimulate the uterus and affect blood vessels. Much more scientific research is being done on the plant it is of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry. 

I wonder if our chickens knew something that I didn't when chomping down their sticky willy. 


  1. Here in Sussex a 'sticky willy' is a long, iced bun.

  2. Fantastic(k)! I pulled out a bunch, as it's new in the garden bed this year and I didn't want it to spread. Rethinking that decision in light of its positive properties!


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