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Galium aparine


Cleavers creep along the ground and over the tops of other plants, attaching themselves with the small hooked hairs which grow out of the stems and leaves. The stems can reach up to three feet or longer, and are angular or square shaped.[2] The leaves are simple, narrowly oblanceolate to linear, and borne in whorls of six to eight.[2][3] Cleavers have tiny, star-shaped, white to greenish flowers, which emerge from early spring to summer. The flowers are clustered in groups of two or three, and are borne out of the leaf axils.[4] The globular fruits grow clustered 1-3 seeds together; and are covered with hooked hairs (a burr) which cling to animal fur, aiding in seed dispersal. Galium aparine is edible. The leaves and stems of the plant can be cooked as a leaf vegetable, if gathered before the fruits appear. However, the numerous small hooks which cover the plant and give it its clinging nature, can make it less palatable if eaten raw.[5][6] Geese also thoroughly enjoy eating G. aparine, hence one of its other common names, "goosegrass".[7] Cleavers are in the same family as coffee. The fruits of cleavers have often been dried and roasted, and then used as a coffee substitute (which contains a much lower amount of caffeine). As a tea, the plant acts medicinally as a diuretic, lymphatic, and detoxifier.[6][12] As a lymphatic tonic, it is used in a wide range of problems involving the lymph system, such as swollen glands (e.g. tonsillitis).[13] Poultices and washes made from cleavers were traditionally used to treat a variety of skin ailments, light wounds and burns.[14] As a pulp, it has been used to relieve poisonous bites and stings.[15] To make a poultice, the entire plant is used, and applied directly to the affected area.[16]The asperuloside in cleavers acts as a mild sedative Dioscorides reported that ancient Greek shepherds would use the barbed stems of cleavers to make a "rough sieve", which could be used to strain milk. Linnaeus later reported the same usage in Sweden—a tradition that is still practiced in modern times.[14][18] In Europe, the dried, matted foliage of the plant was once used to stuff mattresses. Several of the bedstraws were used for this purpose, due to the fact that the clinging hairs cause the branches to stick together, which enables the mattress filling to maintain a uniform thickness.[6][19] The roots of cleavers can be used to make a permanent red dye.


Habitats include woodlands, thickets, seeps, limestone glades, weedy meadows in floodplain areas, fence rows, barnyards, ditches, flower beds, and edges of dumps. This species occurs in both natural and disturbed habitats. Sheltered habitats.


Spotted on Visitor Center (Green) Trail of Red Top Mountain State Park

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QWMom 10 years ago

I'll hav eto try that! :)

MrsPbio 10 years ago

These are fun to play with--- toss them on your hiking partner's tshirt and it will stick like gentle Velcro.

Spotted by

Georgia, USA

Spotted on Mar 2, 2013
Submitted on Mar 4, 2013

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