Cleavers

A hitch-hikers guide…

‘Where have all the flowers gone?’ you may be asking yourself. Six weeks ago the landscape was covered in blooms—especially grass inflorescences—but now only a few plants are bearing flowers. All that time for pollination and fertilisation has past. The catch cry out there at the moment is ‘Go forth and multiply’. Dispersing the seed is what it is all about.

DSCN6209Plants have a developed several methods for doing this. One way is to ensure that the seed attaches itself to the feathers, fur and socks of birds, animals and humans that pass by. To do this the seeds have developed an bidgee widgeeamazing array of hooks, barbs and spikes. Bidgee-widgee (Acaena novae-zelandiae), pictured above, is a native herbaceous creeper found in our district. To give the seed the best chance of catching a lift, the seed heads are elevated on stalks. When they are touched by a passing traveller the seed balls disintegrate into separate barbed seeds (pictured above).

cleaversThe weed Cleavers (Galium aparine) has recently featured in a post (click HERE to view). Its spherical seeds are covered in an array of tiny hooks (pictured left).

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wallaby grassSimilarly the native Wallaby Grass (Austrodanthonia spp.) seeds, right, and Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) seeds, below, also have their ways of attaching themselves to passers-by. Next time you are out walking in the grass check your socks for these hitch-hikers.kangaroo grass

When I was younger I used to hitch-hike as well. Copying Mother Nature, instead of using my thumb maybe what I needed was a Velcro suit!

Meet Cleavers

DSCN4529Cleavers (Galium aparine), or Sticky Grass as we used to call it as kids, is a weed native to Europe and central Asia that is distributed all across Australia. The ‘stickiness’ is due to small hooked hairs that grow out of the stem and leaves. This year has been a bumper year for Cleavers. The stems, which can extend over a metre in length, have covered parts of our property in a web of green, climbing up trees and choking the undergrowth (pictured left). Each year we try to remove it because it smothers other vegetation. But this year especially we do not want the fire fuel load from Cleavers as it dries out.

November 20 was a cool, slightly overcast day. The Cleavers was starting to flower. It could only mean one thing – Cleavers Rollup Day. For those of you with large acreage or who use chemicals as a way of removing stubborn weeds DO NOT read on. I would not want to be responsible for your hernia from excessive laughter.

My method for cleaning it up, never before reported (not by me anyway) is to start at the top of the hill and roll up the long stems. The sticky stems attach themselves to one another and as you roll it down the slope it ‘self-pulls-up’ its own roots. The added advantage is that this method (Patent Pending) picks up most of the loosely rooted weeds like Quaking Grass (Briza spp.) while leaving the native groundcovers like Bidgee-Widge (Acaena nova-zelandiae).

Cleavers Roll

Cleavers Roll

At the bottom of the slope I am left with a roll of Cleavers about one metre high and 15 metres long (see picture right). Wikipedia tells me the leaf and stems can be cooked as a leaf vegetable. Maybe I have just invented the world’s largest vegetarian version of the Chiko Roll. And as for my personal goal of pulling out 250 weeds a day, I am about four and a half years ahead of aim!