galium-aparine-plCleavers is an annual weed that goes by many names including scratch-grass, goosegrass, stickywilly, bedstraw, and catchweed. It is in the bedstraw family, Rubiaceae , a large and diverse family that includes coffee, gardenia and sweet woodruff. Goosegrass can be found across the US where it grows in field and woodland edges, waste places, hedges, and gardens. Cleavers is said to have medicinal properties and is edible although not tasty.

galium_aparine_flIn spring the angular, sprawling stems form loose mats as they spread over the ground and other plants. They grow up to six feet long and attach themselves by small hooked hairs on the stems and leaves. The linear leaves are up to three inches long and are produced in whorls of six to eight. From early spring to summer tiny white to greenish star-like flowers appear in clusters of two to three in the leaf axils and are followed in the fall by bur-like fruits that contain one to three seed and are covered with hooked hairs that facilitate seed dispersal by attaching to the hair.fur or clothing. The root system is fibrous and shallow.

galium_aparine-frBecause cleavers is an annual the best plan involves removing it before it goes to seed. Since it is shallow rooted it can easily be pulled by hand. Where it has spread extensively and other plants will not be damaged, it can be mowed to remove the flowers. A broad leaf herbicide may be used in extreme cases.

By Karen