Cleavers, Galium aparine

Cleavers is a very common hedgerow plant, also a tiresome weed and it will grow in woodlands as long as it is not too shady.

Not surprisingly for such a common plant it has lots of other names, some which I have used are Goosegrass and Sticky Willy. Others that I have found are, clivers, bedstaw, catchweed, grip grass, robin run the hedge, sticky willow, bort,  stickyweed, stickybud,  stickyjack, and stickeljack.

Scientifically it is in the Bedstraw family and as such it has square stems with its leaves arranged in whorls, normally about 6 to 8 lance shaped leaves per whorl. The flowers are very small and white and composed of four pointed petals. They start to flower in May and go on throughout the summer. The flowers are often produced singly or in twos or threes on short side shoots, but can also be produced terminally.

The plant has little backward point hairs on the stems and leaves which give it a rough feel and also cause it to stick to you clothing or the fur of animals. Also the seeds are covered with little hairs and they to are sticky.   I know them as sweethearts, I remember that when I was a child we had a long haired tabby cat which was called ‘Tailsy’ …. I do not know where that name came from, well it came from my Mother but why?  The cat evidently came from some Gypsies who know doubt manged to sell it to her, probably for a bit more than a bunch of luck heather or some clothes pegs. Any way Tailsy used to get loads of sweethearts in his fur and it was really difficult to get them out, sometimes a whole chunk of fur had to be cut out with a pair of scissors. The idea is of course that this helps to disperse the seeds, more so if they get caught on the fur of an animal like a dog or deer with short hair, and of course the clothes of humans.

There is lots of stuff about medicinal properties and being able to eat it if you look it up on the internet, I will mention just one which struck me as interesting. Again it relates to the seeds and these evidently contain caffeine and if you collect sufficient and gently roast them and then grind them up they will make a passable cup of coffee. However as my wife just said…what is passable to some may not be passable to others. Also you would need to gather a lot of seeds.

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5 thoughts on “Cleavers, Galium aparine

  1. My husband calls the seeds ‘sticky bobs’. I won’t tell you what I call them! I am allergic to cleavers so have to use gloves to get rid of them.


    1. Some plants are more easy to write something interesting? about than others. I have a few challenges coming up.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. anneontheshelf May 16, 2018 — 7:21 pm

    I never noticed the tiny flowers until I saw them here and on Twitter’s #wildflowerhour . I’ve found them now. Thanks!


    1. Yes tiny indeed, needed my macro lens for them.


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