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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.


main info

Courses at Kew

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Kew offers a variety of specialist training courses in horticulture, conservation and plant science.

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