Cleavers, Galium aparine


Known to many children and dogs throughout the world, Cleavers, also known by a multitude of other names, (such as bedstraw, goosegrass, catchweed, stickyweed, sticky bob, stickyback and sticky willy, to name just a few), are natuve UK annuals with creeping, straggling stems that branch out and grow along the ground, or over other plants. The stems, leaves and seeds are extremely "sticky", attaching themselves to clothes and, to Arthur's delight, animal fur, with small hooked hairs. Cleavers have tiny, star-shaped, greenish-white flowers, which emerge from early spring to summer.

Cleavers are edible, with the leaves and stems of the plant being cooked as a leaf vegetable. Although it can be eaten raw, the small hooks which cover the plant can make it less palatable, so cooking is preferred by most. Cleavers can also be used to flavour water, as a coffee substitute, or to make poultices, tinctures and teas.

For some people skin contact with cleavers can result in an angry rash, so care must be taken when collecting them for consumption.

Cleavers Checklist


🌳 Deciduous Woodland.
πŸ‘ Grassland, including paddocks, fields and meadows.
🌊 Waterways, including rivers, lakes and streams.
🏑 Urban Green Spaces, including scrubland, parks and gardens.
🏒 Urban Environments, wasteland, Streets and pavements.
🚜 Hedgerows, including field edges.


πŸŒΈπŸŒžπŸ‚β„οΈ January - December


☘️ Small, hairy and thin, growing in tight rosettes along the stem.


🌷 Tiny, greeny-white, four-petalled flowers.


🌱 A very thin, square stem, covered in tiny hooks.

Fruit / Seeds

🍏 Tiny, green, circular burrs covered in hooks, which stick to clothing and animal fur.

Edible Parts

☘️ Leaves
🌷 Flowers
🌱 Stem

Aroma / Taste

πŸ‘ƒ Smells indistinct.
πŸ‘… Tastes fresh when young, but may become a little bitter when older, after seeding. Taste improves with cooking. When steeped in cool water the resulting drink is reminiscent of cucumber.

ID Notes

🟩 ID Difficulty: Beginner
πŸ‘€ The hairy square stems, leaf shape, tiny flowers and sticky seeds are all key identifiers.
🀚 It's "stickiness" is a key identifier for children.


πŸ₯¬ Green - this plants is best used as a spinach substitute.
β˜•οΈ Beverage - can be steeped in water to make a refreshing summer drink that tastes of cucumber.