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Galium aparine, goosegrass


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Galium aparine, goosegrass
Family: Rubiaceae
Dioscorides (III 90) describes goosegrass as having many
long quadrangular rough sprays, leaves at a distance lying
whorled like madder, white flowers and a hard round
seed, somewhat indented in the middle like a navel. His
final statement is that, as many children know, the herb
clings onto clothing. Here we have a very satisfactory
description of Galium aparine. This is not the only sticky
Galium which grows in Turkey but goosegrass and other
Galium species continue to be used in Turkey today (Baser
et al 2004). It is remarkable that a herb which has been
in continuous usage has relatively little written about it.
There is little research on constituents and this is mainly
to determine the sections in the genus. We have used the
name goosegrass as the common name rather than the
more commonly used cleavers.
Dioscorides states that the juice of the seeds, stalks and
leaves in wine can be applied after bites from spiders
and snakes. This is one of the places where Dioscorides
and Pliny appear to have cited the same source: Pliny,
cited in Fuchs, refers to usage in bites from harvest spiders
and snakes, and gives a dose of 1 drachm (4 g) of the seeds
in wine. The use of the juice against snake bites, by pre-
serving the heart from venom, is repeated by Culpeper.
So, from the beginning there is a reference to the blood
purifying action of goosegrass whereas the diuretic action
and usage in disorders of the urinary tract are not found
until more modern texts. Use of the juice or tea as an
alterative alongside external usage is advised by the
authors. The physicians of Myddfai in Wales recommend
fresh juice of goosegrass in spring and summer, since its
healing powers were highly regarded. This text was set
down in 1743 but is based on a continuous practice of
Part used: aerial parts
Galium aparine L. is a vigorous, scrambling annual, found throughout Europe, and was already present as an arable
weed in the eastern USA before 1860 (Mack 2003). It is a highly variable species, native to shingle beaches, fenland and
alder woodland, and a common weed, often associated with Urtica dioica (Taylor 1999). The Flora of Turkey (Davis 1982)
gives 101 Galium species, including Galium aparine.
Rough, brittle, square stems (to 300 cm long) with recurved prickles on stem and leaf margins bear whorls of six to
eight leaves with bristle-like tips. Tiny white flowers with four petals occur mainly in early summer in clusters which arise
from the leaf axils. Different races in Europe germinate at different times depending on local climate and on whether they
grow in hedgerows or an open site (Taylor 1999). The abundant, two-lobed, green fruits become reddish and are covered
with dense hooked bristles that attach to clothing and passing animals.
Galium aparine is distinguished by the length of its stems and its white flowers. Galium spurium, which is not used, is a
similar naturalized weed, with a slender stem to 1 m, yellowy flowers, and a fruit which becomes black (Gibbons & Brough
According to the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, it should be collected when in flower and forming seeds. Fuchs
recommends collection when in seed but, unless the seeds are sought, earlier collection will provide fresher leaf material.
The lower part of stem is best cut in situ to avoid collection of dried-out leaves or contamination with soil. It should be
dried quickly and turned whilst drying as it blackens and spoils easily. As the physicians of Myddfai observed ‘Take care not
to leave them out in foggy, muggy weather as the whole virtue of the herb will be destroyed thereby’.
Figure 17.1 Galium aparine, goosegrass (Yorkshire, June).
Galium aparine, goosegrass | 17 |
medicine by one family since the late 14th century. The
juice of the plant taken in spring and summer as the
patient’s only drink ‘will completely destroy and expel
eruptive poisons in the blood and humours’. The method
of preparing and taking the herb is carefully described: the
whole herb, leaves, blossoms and seeds should be pounded
together well, put in an unglazed earthenware vessel
without pressing the plant material down, covered with
spring water and left overnight. The infusion is to be taken
fresh as the only drink for 9 weeks. The Myddfai text links
many diseases with ‘an eruptive poison in the blood and
humours’ associated with ‘irregularities in eating and
drinking’, and thus recommends goosegrass for boils,
scrofula and lepra (see the discussion under figwort,
Chapter 28), cancer, erysipelas, pneumonia, dropsy, rheu-
matism and gout, all sorts of fevers, pocks of the skin, all
watery diseases of the eyes, head and stomach catarrh,
oedematous swellings of the joints, legs, feet and of other
parts, inflammations, fevers and oppression of the chest
and stomach.
The physicians of Myddfai recommend the use of the
juice or decoction of goosegrass externally for eruptions
and boils, abscesses, ringworm, dermatitis, ulcers, wounds
and burns. In severe cases, the bruised plant itself is
applied. Use of the fresh expressed juice, without heat, is
also recommended by Coffin and Fox. Coffin advises
internal usage in chronic sores (2 fl oz three times a day).
Fox recommends 1–4 teaspoons three times a day for
eczema, skin disease and ‘hard lumps in the glands of the
breast or neck’ when used alongside an external prepara-
tion. The alterative action in skin disease continues to be
considered significant (Mills & Bone 2005) and it is rec-
ommended for use in eczema and psoriasis. Priest & Priest
recommend it for all skin eruptions, including eczema and
psoriasis, and as the preferred diuretic in rashes and erup-
tions. The recommendation for skin rashes in feverish
disease reflects that of Felter & Lloyd (1898) who recom-
mend goosegrass in acute erysipelas, scarlatina and ‘other
exanthematous diseases, in their inflammatory stages’.
They advise a tea of equal parts of goosegrass, maidenhair
fern Adiantum capillus-veneris and elderflowers Sambucus
nigra, steeped in warm water for 2 or 3 hours, and drunk
freely, when cold. They recommend external usage of an
infusion made with cold water several times a day for 2–3
months for removing freckles from the face and for ‘several
cutaneous eruptions’. The link with the use of goosegrass
as a diuretic which shortens fevers is also made by Elling-
wood (1919). Wood takes the lymphatic action one step
further and links this with the nervous system. He states
that goosegrass is a ‘deer remedy’ and so associated with
the nervous system. He uses it for inflammation associated
with the nervous tract, itchy skin and nodules, in particu-
lar as a specific for Dupuytren’s contracture and Morton’s
The physicians of Myddfai state that the use of the juice
and external application has healed scrofula and cancer,
‘when it had destroyed the flesh to the bones’. The use of
the term ‘cancer’ is difficult to interpret, but there are recur-
ring recommendations for use in scrofula. The term ‘scrof-
ula’, also called the king’s evil, refers to large swellings in
the cervical glands caused by tuberculosis. However, the
meaning of the term is contested (French 1993) and it
may include enlarged lymph nodes in general and itchy
rashes (see figwort). Dodoens states that ‘pounded with
hogs grease, it dissolveth and consumeth the disease of
the neck called the King’s evil, and all hard kernels and
wens wherever they be, if it be layed thereto, as Turner
writeth’. Culpeper similarly suggests that ‘boiled in hog’s
grease it helpeth all sorts of hard swellings or kernels in
the throat, being anointed therewith’. This advice appears
to rely on Dioscorides, who states that the herb com-
pounded with lard disperses scrofulous swellings of the
glands. Miller gives it as a ‘sweetener of the Blood and of
service in the King’s Evil, for which some give the juices
as a great secret’.
Coffin recommends goosegrass in scrofula and indolent
ulcers and claims that ‘many dangerous cancers have been
cured’ by taking 2 oz of the fresh juice three times
daily and the application, where relevant, of a fresh green
poultice. This is interesting as it is rare in the 19th century
for fresh preparations to be specified. Fox then recom-
mends the use of the fresh herb, made into an ointment
with vaseline, for reducing hard lumps in the glands of the
neck and breast. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recom-
mends internal usage for lymphadenitis and use of gooseg-
rass as a specific for enlarged lymph nodes, especially in
the neck.
There is an element of chance about the recommenda-
tion in books that one chooses to try. I took the recom-
mendation of Fox when first in practice and prepared an
oil of fresh goosegrass for use in sore breasts and enlarged
cervical glands, and have used it in practice continuously
for over 20 years. I make the oil in June before the plant
begins to seed. As an example, 2480 g of fresh herb in 4 L
of sunflower oil yielded 3100 mL of infused oil. The oil is
prepared by roughly chopping and weighing the fresh
plant material and filling a large jam pan, and covering it
with sunflower oil. It is simmered on the lowest possible
heat until the leaves begin to crisp. Then more fresh herb
is added and left on the heat until it begins to crisp. Then
turn off, cover the pan with clingfilm, steep overnight,
strain through a cloth and ensure that the black watery
residue is discarded.
Figure 17.2 Galium aparine, goosegrass.
Galium aparine, goosegrass | 17 |
The oil can be used alone for premenstrual sore breasts
and in the lumpy breasts associated with fibroadenoma.
With essential oils and tinctures it is invaluable in external
treatment of enlarged cervical glands in throat infections,
in sinusitis and in headache associated with sinusitis. I use
it as an ingredient in creams for swellings associated with
arthritis, and in the treatment of boils with, for example,
marshmallow root cream Althaea officinalis, tincture of
myrrh Commiphora molmol and tea tree oil Melaleuca
alternifolia. My impression is that it is of particular use in
decreasing swellings, encouraging lymphatic flow and
thus in resolution of infection and inflammation. I had
one patient only who appeared to have an allergic reaction
to the oil but as it is an oil, I would not use it in eczema
as oils can be too heating. A chance decision to follow the
advice in Fox is found to have been based on the advice
of Dioscorides. I have found this preparation very reliable:
what herbalists used to call a ‘sheet-anchor’. In writing this
book, we have found many external usages which have
fallen out of favour, and which could be reintroduced.
The other external use given by Dioscorides is the juice
dropped into the ears to treat earache, an application
found in Pliny and cited in Fuchs, Dalechamps and sub-
sequent authors. Pliny gives as additional usage: leaves
applied to inhibit bleeding from wounds which is also
given by Mattioli, Dodoens and Culpeper. This could be
a useful first aid measure as Galium is used in Turkey to
coagulate milk (Deliorman et al 2001). Mattioli and
Culpeper also advise the powdered herb to stop bleeding
from a wound by closing it up.
Use for urinary tract problems is a more recent applica-
tion. Priest & Priest describe it as a ‘soothing, relaxing and
diffusive diuretic which increases aqueous excretion, cor-
rects inability to pass normal catabolic wastes, and relieves
irritation’. The term ‘diuretic’ is used in texts on herbal
medicine to cover a range of actions and indications asso-
ciated with urinary function. For goosegrass, these include
an increase in flow of urine, use in urinary tract infections,
for kidney stones and in strangury. The term ‘strangury’ is
used to mean impeded flow of urine. This indication is
given by the physicians of Myddfai, who also recommend
use of the fresh juice in dropsy and oedematous swellings
of the joints, legs, feet and other parts. Coffin and Fox
describe goosegrass as one of the most powerful of all
diuretics and so useful in many diseases of the urinary
tract, including dropsy. Coffin recommends the juice or
decoction for children who start to retain fluid due to
inflammation of the kidneys following an attack of scarlet
fever. This recommendation links with use in scarlatina
and ‘other exanthematous diseases, in their inflammatory
stages’ by Felter & Lloyd (1898). It also suggests a usage
in Henoch-Schönlein purpura.
Use in urinary tract infections is a recurring theme.
Cook recommends goosegrass in acute conditions, par-
ticularly when the urine is too concentrated and scalding,
and where urinary flow is impeded by inflammation at the
neck of the bladder such as in gonorrhoea, for which he
give the dose of
21fl oz (15–30 mL) every 4–6 hours.
While the treatment of venereal disease must always be
undertaken by a qualified medical practitioner, there is
every reason to suppose that the use of an alterative such
as goosegrass would support antibiotic treatment. Fox
advocates goosegrass in inflammation of the kidneys and
bladder, scalding of urine and ‘all cases attended with
febrile excitement’.
Goosegrass is consistently recommended in the Eclectic
texts for its actions on the urinary tract. Scudder (1870)
recommends the infusion as one of the best remedies to
increase flow of urine and as fast acting in painful urina-
tion. Ellingwood (1919) advises use of the infusion, espe-
cially where there is dysuria with acute inflammation, and
in urinary tract problems associated with enlarged pros-
tate. He particularly values it to resolve fever. Although
goosegrass is classified as a renal stimulant, it is a cold
remedy and, according to Scudder (1898), should not be
used in torpid and debilitated conditions. Wren lists it for
‘obstruction of urinary organs, suppression of urine,
dropsy, renal obstructions’ and use in oedema is also given
by the National Botanic Pharmacopoeia. Priest & Priest rec-
ommend it in scalding micturition, dysuria, irritable
bladder and cystitis with marshmallow Althaea officinalis
and enuresis in children with Rhus aromatica. Menzies-
Trull also advises it in acute cystitis and in benign prostatic
hypertrophy. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia lists it as a
diuretic herb noting its use in dysuria and cystitis, although
somehow this short entry seems bland and lifeless com-
pared with the earlier sources.
Wood links the usage of goosegrass as an antilithic,
describing this as another form of concretion, with its use
in fibrous breast tissue. Although the analogy could be
farfetched, the alterative action may be affecting both con-
ditions. Goosegrass is recommended for bladder stones
and gravelly deposits by the physicians of Myddfai and by
Coffin. Wren claims that it is a ‘solvent of stone in bladder’
as does Grieve. Priest & Priest recommend use in this
context with antiseptics such as bearberry Arctostaphylos
uva-ursi. A combination given by Coffin for stoppage of
urine, gravel and ‘female weakness’ (menstrual problems)
contains goosegrass, parsley root Petroselinum crispum,
juniper berries Juniperus commmunis, linseed Linum ussis-
sitatum all at 2 oz, 1 oz quassia bark Picrasma excelsa,
boiled in 1 gallon of water and strained. Then add 1 oz
powdered ginger Zingiber officinalis and 1 lb honey. The
dose is given as 1 tablespoon to half a wineglassful three
times daily, which gives a dose of 15–30 mL.
The temperament of goosegrass is given by Galen, cited by
Fuchs and Dalechamps, as slightly heating with subtle
parts and a moderately cleansing and drying action. Dale-
champs describes it as hot and dry and Culpeper describes
it as moderately heating and drying. Yet above, Scudder
(1898) argues that it must not be used in cold and torpid
conditions as it is cooling. This perception of goosegrass
as cooling is also given by Felter & Lloyd (1898), who state
that it is contraindicated in diseases of a passive character
as it is refrigerant and sedative. This is an important point
as it could be the basis of the contra-indication of gooseg-
rass by Coffin in diabetes which is repeated by the National
Botanic Pharmacopoeia, Grieve and Barnes. It could also be
because in untreated diabetes there is already excessive
flow of urine, but my impression of goosegrass is that it
is predominantly cooling.
There is some support of the mild astringent action
given by the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Mattioli, cited
by Dalechamps, and followed by Parkinson then Culpeper,
refers to use of the distilled water in dysentery. Culpeper
also advises the decoction in jaundice, lasks (diarrhoea)
and bloody fluxes. The only reference to tannins is in
Bradley (1992) referring to a study published in 1970
which found 2.5–4% condensed tannins. The main con-
stituents identified are iridoid glycosides which are bitter.
This could support the advice of Culpeper and Miller, who
give a use as a spring tonic. Culpeper advises the herb
chopped small, boiled well in watery gruel and eaten to
cleanse the blood, strengthen the liver and so keep the
body in health and ‘fitting it for the change of season that
is coming’. The herb taken in broth, with mutton and
oatmeal, is said to keep those ‘apt to grow fat in a lean
and lank state’. Coffin, Cook and Wren state that gooseg-
rass is a mild aperient of the bowels.
It is cooling, but there is also a sense of movement and
Menzies-Trull describes it as a vasotonic alterative which
cleanses the tissues. Although the British Herbal Pharmaco-
poeia gives only the actions diuretic and mild astringent,
it give lymphadenitis as an indication and enlarged lymph
modes as a specific indication. Hoffmann emphasizes the
action as a lymphatic tonic with alterative and diuretic
actions. He particularly recommends it in dry psoriasis.
This herb is an example of a plant where there is no
pharmacology to support its usage. The oil is pale green
and external usage must rely on a compound which is
soluble in oil. The black residue will contain the water
soluble iridoid glycosides. Fresh and dried preparations
vary substantially as dried preparations are dark whereas
fresh tinctures can be a pale straw colour. However, taken
as a diuretic, lymphatic tonic and alterative, goosegrass
can form a valuable part of a prescription. Used externally,
it has a quality which I have not met in any other plant,
and which I probably only discovered because the fresh
plant was readily available. As Culpeper says ‘it growth by
the hedge and ditch side in many places of this land, and
is so troublesome an inhabitant in gardens, that it rampeth
upon, and is ready to choak whatever grows near it’.
The commonplace nature of goosegrass allows it to be
recommended as a food. The Myddfai text gives a brief
account of the four causes of disease: fever caused by
excess hot or cold; eruptive poison caused by irregularities
in eating and drinking; obstruction in the stomach, veins
or hollow vessels which means that the food, drink, blood
or humours cannot pass; and boils caused by the entrance
of poisons. ‘Irregularities in eating and drinking’ remain
common causes of disease and the recommendation of
regular consumption of fresh herbs as food can be over-
looked because of the perception of herbs as medicines.
The Myddfai text gives a detailed account of the use of
goosegrass and offers another recipe for use to make the
person strong and healthy. The leaves, flowers and seed
should be dried separately in the morning sun, and care-
fully, for foggy and muggy weather spoils the drying
process. An infusion overnight in cold water of either
herb, flower or seed, according to what is available is to
be taken daily with salt for 1 week. Thereafter, an infusion
of the fresh plant material is taken for 9 weeks. During the
first 3 weeks of this period the infusion is to be made from
the leaves, then the flowers for 3 weeks, finally the seed.
Each time the plant material is to be infused for 6 hours.
At the end of the day, the infused plant material can be
boiled up and the resulting strained decoction taken warm
before bed.
In some Renaissance texts it is impossible to know
whether the writer is writing from experience or to dem-
onstrate their learning. In contrast, a virtue of the Myddfai
text is that it reads as if it is written from practical experi-
ence. This will partly be because it is based on a different
and more widespread tradition of medical books which
listed herbs by indication (Gottfried 1986) and its firm
location within a local Welsh context.
There is a strong tradition of use as an alterative in
‘eruptive poisons’ and skin disease.
Galium aparine, goosegrass | 17 |
As a cooling diuretic in fevers, especially if associated
with rashes.
For urinary tract infections.
External usage in swollen glands, boils, sore throat,
sinusitis and arthritis is consistently recommended
throughout the tradition and is recommended from
personal experience.
Dosage: the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recommends
2–4 g three times a day of dried aerial parts.
Use of the fresh herb is consistently recommended
throughout the tradition. Coffin gives a dose of 60 mL
three times a day of fresh juice. The British Herbal Pharma-
copoeia recommends 3–15 mL three times a day of
expressed juice.
External preparations, such as an oil in which fresh
plant material has been decocted, can be used one to eight
times a day depending on whether the conditions is
chronic or acute. This makes a useful base oil to which
essential oils can be added.
Goosegrass is considered safe in pregnancy and
lactation, and no warnings or adverse events were
found (Mills & Bone 2005).
Reviews: Barnes et al (2007), Bradley (1992), Mills & Bone (2005), Williamson (2003).
Three categories, isoquinoline: protopine; beta-carboline: harmine; quinazoline: vascinone, dehydroxdeoxypeganine (wild,
Turkey) (Șener & Ergun 1991).
Volatile oils
Aldehydes and ketones 22%: beta-damascenone 0.2%. Oil mainly composed of non-volatile oils: hexadecanoic acid 22%
(wild, Turkey) (Baser et al 2004).
Alkanes: nonacosane, concentrations vary over the summer (Corrigan et al 1978).
Iridoid glycosides
Asperulosidic acid 0.19%, 10-deacetylasperulosidic acid 0.58% (wild, Turkey) (Deliorman et al 2001).
Asperulosidic acid, monotropein, 10-deacetylasperulosidic acid, scandoside (wild, Bulgaria) (Mitova et al 2002).
Asperuloside, monotropein, deacetylasperulosidic acid (wild, Ireland) (Corrigan et al 1978).
Polyphenolic acids
The concentration of p-coumaric and ferulic acid was the lowest found amongst 14 plants (Komprda et al 1999).
Condensed tannins 2.5–4% (Bradley 1992). These related compounds are listed here as no more recent reference was
Scopoletin (wild, Portugal) (Seabra & Silveira 1993).
Flavanone: hesperetin glycosides (Temizer et al 1996).
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
From the aerial parts of Galium aparine L. (Rubiaceae) of Turkish origin, an isoquinoline type alkaloid has been isolated, This is the firsİ exaınple of the isolation of protopine from the Rubiaceae family.
Full-text available
The isolation and UV, IR, 1 H- and 13 C-NMR data of asperulosidic acid, 10-deacetylasperulosidic acid from Galium aparine L. aerial parts are reported.
Full-text available
From 19 species of Galium, members of 6 European sections of the genus, 24 compounds were isolated, namely 16 iridoid glucosides, 2 secoiridoid glucosides and 6 triterpene saponins (the later found only in G. rivale (Sibth. & Sm. Griseb.) The iridoid content was analyzed by thin layer chromatography - densitometry. An effort was made to clarify interspecies relationships, based on the obtained results and previous data. Generally, a nearly uniform iridoid pattern in the studied species was observed. Nevertheless, some distinctions gave reason the following chemical characters to be treated as taxonomic markers: iridoids, secogalioside (characteristic of G. mollugo group), iridoids V1 and V2 (G. humifusum Bieb. and G. verum L.), 6-acetylscandoside (G. incurvum group and G. verum) and the triterpene saponins, rivalioside A and rivalioside C (characteristic of G. rivale). The studied species regarding to the iridoids could be attributed to three lines of evolutionary differentiation. One line is leading to the differentiation of G. rivale. It contains specific triterpenoids as well as iridoid acids, which show parallel development of both glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate/pyruvate and mevalonate biosynthetic routes in this species. A second line includes G. mollugo and G. incurvum species groups and the species G. humifusum and G. verum. Variety of iridoid esters, hydroxy and carboxy derivatives of iridoids and secoiridoids characterised this line. Third line comprises the remaining studied species, members of different sections and species groups. They posses a nearly identical iridoid pattern, which suggests a convergent evolution regarding to the iridoids.
A differential pulse polarographic method used to analyse the rutin contents of aerial parts of Galium verum L. and the hesperidin content of aerial parts of Galium aparine L. and Galium humifusum Bieb. after the selective extraction. Differential pulse polarograms of rutin and hesperidin show distinct peaks at -1.83 V and -1.70 V vs. Ag/AgCl reference electrode in Sorenson buffer at pH 6.0 respectively. The linear calibration curve of rutin and hesperidin have been found in the concentration ranges of 10 to 100 and 5 to 50 ppm. The relative standard deviations at 20 ppm level were found to be as 0.75% and 0.82% for rutin and hesperidin respectively. It was concluded that of the reduction process at the dropping mercury electrode was diffusion controlled in nature. The result of an analysis of Galium species studied found by the differential pulse polarography has been compared with classical methods of analysis.
Plant immigrants to North America arrived from Europe with the first human immigrants, products of the intense incentive early colonists felt to transplant European agriculture into the Western Hemisphere. Among early deliberate and accidental introductions were species that would soon become naturalized in eastern North America: Artemisia absinthium, Hyoscyamus niger, Plantago lanceolata, and Taraxacum officinale. The naturalized flora grew as species for food, forage, seasonings, and medicine were imported, cultivated, and escaped the bounds of cultivated fields. Importation of what has become the most common category of naturalized species, erstwhile ornamentals, had a modest beginning by the mid 17th century. The first recorded invasion, the spread and proliferation of Linaria vulgaris in the Mid-Atlantic colonies, was recognized by the mid 18th century, and Berberis vulgaris was rampant in southern New England before 1800. Botanical records, including published floras, became much more common in the first decades of the 19th century and reveal a naturalized flora in the U.S. that was quite similar in composition to the agricultural weed flora of Western Europe. Many ruderals and agricultural weeds were widespread in the eastern U.S., but probably not invasive by 1860, and included Bromus secalinus, Cynoglossum officinale, Galium aparine, and Senecio vulgaris. Other alien species had, however, become invasive by the 1840s, such as Echium vulgare in Virginia. Species that were to form devastating invasions in the United States from 1860 onward (e.g., Bromus tectorum, Euphorbia esula, Lonicera japonica, Melaleuca quinquenervia) had either not arrived by 1860, were undetected, or were not reported as having escaped from cultivation. Growth of the naturalized flora and the subsequent number of invasive taxa was certainly facilitated, and probably sparked, by the enormous growth of railroads and rail-borne commerce in the late 19th century.
The results of an analysis of the iridoid and n-alkane patterns in twelve species of Asperula and Galium revealed similarities rather than differences between and within the genera. The ease with which artefacts can be produced from asperuloside limits the taxonomic usefulness of asperuloside-type iridoids. A sub-division of the genus Galium based on the dominant alkanes was not completely in accord with the existing division of the genus into sections. The alkane patterns are largely unaffected by plant age or geographical location. They do support some of the taxonomic views currently held concerning the inter-relationships of different species in the genus Galium.
Content of p-coumaric (PCA) and ferulic (FA) acid was determined by the HPLC method in fourteen forbs with a potential utilization as forages (range of nutrient content per kg DM: 100 to 244 g CP, 339 to 528 g NDF and 180-369 g ADF. PCA and FA were determined after methanol extraction in four fractions: free phenolic acids extracted into either, ester-bound phenolic acids after alkaline hydrolysis, glycoside-bound phenolic acids after acid hydrolysis, and cell wall-bound phenolic acids after alkaline hydrolysis of the solid residue after the extraction with methanol. Cell wall-bound phenols were quantitatively the most important fraction (50% of total PCA and 47% of total FA, respectively). The differences among plant species in total PCA plus FA control were significant (F-value 775, P < 0.01). The range of total phenol content was 31.3 to 416.3 mg/100 g DM, the overall mean was 84 mg/100 g DM. Content of phenolic acids was correlated neither with ADF, NDF or ADL content (R2 = 1-3%, P > 0.05) nor with CP degradability (R2 = 3% and R2 = 1% for PCA and FA, respectively, P > 0.05). 95.4% and 30.9% of total PCA, and 98.3% and 72.5% of total FA disappeared in the rumen from the sample of Glechoma hederacea (species with the highest phenol content) and from the sample of Galium aparine (species with low phenol content), respectively, within the four hour incubation interval. It is presumed that in comparison with grasses, PCA and FA concentration in tested forbs represents a much lower risk in potential ruminant nutrition.