November 28th, 2010


50 More Urban Species #46: Cleavers

Cleavers Galium aparine

Cleavers are so called because the plant is covered with little hooks, like velcro, that allow it to "cleave to" other plants, animals, and pant legs. ("To cleave" has two different, opposite meanings.) Likewise it may be called "sticky willy," "catchgrass," "catchweed bedstraw" (because a related was used to stuff bedding), and for some reason "goosegrass."

The plant is native to both Eurasia and North America, and has a history of cultural use in both continents. A variety of medical and culinary uses (including roasting the seeds as a coffee substitute) are attached to it, though contemporary people know it mainly as a weed. It prefers richly fertilized soil, and becomes a pest of crop fields and yard edges. Outside of its native range it is considered invasive.