Cleavers

©Anne Tanne

Cleavers

Scientific name: Galium aparine
Familiar as the bristly plant that easily hooks on to our clothing as we walk through the countryside or do the gardening, Cleavers uses its hooks to help it climb and to disperse its seeds.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 1.5m

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to December

About

Children delight in the sticky nature of Cleavers, frequently attaching the angular stems to each other or even their pets. For this reason, it has many other common names, such as 'Sticky Bobs', 'Stick-a-back' and 'Kisses' (because lovers cling to each other, too). Cleavers is a climbing plant, using the hooks on its stems to aid its scrambling progress. The hooks on its fruits attach to animals (and us) to help disperse its seeds.

How to identify

Covered in tiny hooks, the sticky nature of Cleavers is enough to identify it easily. Otherwise, look for whorls of up to eight narrow leaves, sprawling stems, and tiny white flowers. The small, rounded fruits are also covered in hooks.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

Cleavers is used as food for geese and chickens and is also known as 'Goosegrass' and 'Gosling Weed'.

How people can help

Our gardens are a vital resource for wildlife, providing corridors of green space between open countryside, allowing species to move about. In fact, the UK's gardens provide more space for nature than all the National Nature Reserves put together. So why not try leaving wilder areas in your garden, such as patches of buttercups in your lawn or nettles near your compost heap, to see who comes to visit? To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.