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Galium aparine (cleavers)

Cleavers is a botanical hitchhiker with a medicinal past, present and future.
Cleavers plant with one white flower

Galium aparine (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Galium aparine L.

Common name: 

cleavers, clivers, goosegrass, kisses, stickyweed, stickybud, sticky willy

Conservation status: 

Not threatened - this species is widespread and often considered a weed.


Common in hedgerows and field margins, native on scree slopes and shingle, and as a weed in gardens and wasteland.

Key Uses: 

The whole plant is edible, though not particularly tasty; it is also reputed to have a number of medicinal properties.

Known hazards: 

The sap and hooked hairs (which are bristly to touch) can cause contact dermatitis.


Genus: Galium

About this species

This climber is well known by children for its 'stickiness', owing to its covering of hooked hairs. There is a rather cruel Scottish children's game involving this plant. The trick is to persuade somebody to allow a piece of it to be put in their mouth - then pull it out fast. The hooks being rather sharp, the game is called 'bleedy tongues'! Galium aparine is also well known by herbalists for its medicinal properties.


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