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Corn Cleavers

Galium tricornutum

Corn Cleavers is an annual wildflower rather like the common Cleavers but much rarer and not so clingy.

How to spot it

Corn Cleavers is a rough, straggly plant with whorls of narrow leaves. The stems are sometimes square in cross-section. It differs from its common relative as it has cream-coloured flowers, as opposed to the white ones of the common weed. The fruits are spherical nutlets hanging in pairs at the leaf axils. As they lack hooked barbs, they do not stick to your clothes.

Where to spot it

It used to be a common weed of cereal crops, but has declined dramatically over the last 60 years owing to changing agricultural methods. Corn Cleavers is now found in only two sites in central-southern England. It prefers disturbed ground, mainly in arable fields, but also on hedge-banks and sea cliffs.

How’s it doing?

Corn Cleavers is classified as Critically Endangered. The use of fertilisers and herbicides, the loss of field margins and the development of highly productive crop varieties have led to its decline.

Things you might not know

  • In the Chilterns, the seeds of this rare arable weed were made into tops for lace pins.
  • In addition to Corn Cleavers, its common names include, three-horned bedstraw, rough corn bedstraw and roughfruit corn bedstraw.
  • Corn Cleavers is occasionally a weed of grain fields.

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Melittis melissophyllum