Species: Cleavers or Goosegrass (Galium aparine)

Family: Bedstraws (RUBIACEAE)

Category: Flowering Plants

Location: NW

A. Flowering Plants

More extensive information on flowering plants can be found in a separate blog post.

B. Bedstraws (RUBIACEAE)

This is a huge worldwide family, whose main characteristic is the way the leaves are arranged in whorls around the stems.

C. Cleavers or Goosegrass (Galium aparine)

This is one of our most irrepressible native plants. Its tiny white flowers appear in May. An infusion of the whole plant is used as a diuretic and for skin conditions. This plant was fed to poultry and goslings, hence its alternative name of Goosegrass. For obvious reasons it is also called Stickyweed.


Cleavers or Goosegrass

Cleavers or Goosegrass is one of our most irrepressible native plants whose tiny white flowers appear in May.

Cleavers or Goosegrass

The leaves and stems of this scrambling, 'sticky' plant are covered in backward-directed prickles, as can be seen in close-up in this photograph. It is these prickles that makes the plant stick to one's clothes. One of the meanings of the verb 'to cleave' is, appropriately, 'to stick to'. The plant is also variously known as 'stickyweed', 'velcro grass', 'hitchhickers', 'catchweed', 'sticky bob', 'sticky willy', 'stickyjack', 'whippysticks' and 'grip grass'. Its Latin name Aparine is derived from the Greek and means 'clinging'. One old French name for the grass is gratte-langue ('scratch-tongue'), another is trapeharde (derived from an amalgamation of the verb 'attraper', to seize or catch, and the old French word 'hardes', being old clothes). This plant has a reputation for sticking to clothes in many different cultures.

Cleavers or Goosegrass

The tiny white flowers of Cleavers show briefly in May.

Cleavers or Goosegrass

These tiny white flowers of Cleavers develop at the base of the upper leaves.

Cleavers or Goosegrass

As well as having leaves and stems covered in 'self-adhesive' prickles, Cleavers also develops tiny seeds - or burrs - that are also covered with hooked hairs, as can be clearly seen in this photograph. These also aid in seed dispersal, making Goosegrass a plant that has successfully adapted to its environment.