Galium aparine (Cleavers)
Cleavers tends to adhere to passerby with its numerous trichomes, so watch out!
We encourage Galium aparine as a groundcover in our forest garden. It is beneficial to wildlife and you can even find it in winter, if you’re looking for a green snack.
Common Name: Cleavers (also known as catchweed bedstraw, sticky willy, goosegrass)
Scientific Name: Galium aparine
Plant Family: Rubiaceae
Identification: Square stem, leaves are in whorls of six to eight, trichomes (hairs) on stem and both surfaces of leaves. Leaves are narrow, long and pointed. Flowers have four white petals and grow from the axils of leaf whorls.
Edible Parts: Leaves are best when young. Seeds can be roasted as a coffee substitute.
**If the plant irritates your skin, DON’T eat it!!!**
Medicinal Uses: Use fruit and leaves to lessen bloating, treat jaundice, reduce lymph swellings. Can be infused in tea to ease insomnia or the juice can be used as an ointment or drunk as a diuretic. Also used against diarrhea and rheumatism and as a cleaning agent.
Meaning of Scientific Name: Galium comes from the Greek word ‘gala’, for milk (some species of Galium can be used to curdle milk and make cheese), while aparine is the Greek name for cleavers.
Fun Facts: Velcro was inspired by a plant with hooked trichomes similar to G. aparine. Decocting the root produces a red dye!
Designing with this Plant
USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-7
Forest garden layer: Herbaceous - prefers moist, shady, nutrient-rich areas
- Ahmad, S. S., & Javed, S. (2007). Exploring the Economic Value of Underutilized Plant Species in Ayuba National Park. Pak. J. Bot, 39(5), 1435–1442.
- Bowling, A. J., Maxwell, H. B., & Vaughn, K. C. (2008). Unusual trichome structure and composition in mericarps of catchweed bedstraw (Galium aparine). Protoplasma, 233(3–4), 223–230. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00709-008-0006-7
- Dave’s Garden “Catchweed Bedstraw, Sticky Willy, Goose Grass, Cleavers” (2018)
- Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 1998.
- Plants for a Future “Galium aparine - L.” (2018)
- Uva, R. H., Neal, J. C., & DiTomaso, J. M. Weeds of the Northeast. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1997.