Cleavers Galium aparine

Status Green - Least concern
Best Time to See June, July, August
Habitat Woodland

'An erb that is cald clyvers that yonge gese eten' - Dawson, W. R., A leech book of the Fifteenth Century (1934)

A ‘clinging’ plant that climbs and rambles over other plants. It can grow ten feet in a season.

Hairs and prickles cover most parts of this plant which make it cling to clothing and fur, so well known by walkers and gardeners. The square shaped stem supports small, round fruits, little white flowers and thin leaves in swirls of 6-8.

This plant has many different names including 'goosegrass'.


Widespread, except some areas towards the north of Scotland.


Can be found in a range of habitats including beaches, cultivated land, gardens, hedges, river banks, shingle, waste ground and woodland.

Did you know?

Cleavers has a host of rather charming vernacular names including Bobby Buttons, Goose bumps, Gollenweed, Sweethearts (because of its clinging habit), Kisses, Sticky William, Claggy Meggies and Robin-run-the-hedge.

It is most widely known for the ability of its hooked hairs and fruit to cling to clothing and animal fur, making it a favourite amongst children who delight in flinging it on each other, on adults, and on long-suffering pets.

In addition it is still used as food for chickens and geese (hence the name goosegrass ), and occasionally for humans. The bristles soften completely on cooking. It has also been used for making goosegrass beer in Staffordshire. The stems were used by shepherds to strain hair out of the milk. Other reported uses include to make natural shampoo and deodorants, and in medicine to treat urinary infections, piles, scurvy, ulcers and skin disease.