Galium aparine

Common name:  bedstraw, cleavers,[1] stickywilly, catchweed bedstraw, cleaverwort, scarthgrass, white hedge, [2] goosegrass. [3]    NOTE:  This plant is not native to the Willamette Valley

Scientific name:  Galium aparine[1]

Plant family:  Rubiaceae (Madder family)[2]

Description:  Cleavers are a weak, taprooted annual with sprawling leafy stems that grows to 20-100 cm tall or long and tends to entangle with other vegetation.  Their linear to oblong leaves are round-tipped with a sharp point and are clustered in whorls of 6-8.  They are 1-7cm long and have one vein running down the center that has bristles pointing backwards.  The hermaphroditic [5] flowers rise from the axils of leaf whorls in clusters of 3-5.  They are 1-2 mm wide and whitish or greenish and bloom between April and June.[3] Petals fused at the base form a short tube that splits into 4 lobes.  The fruits of bedstraw are dry 2-lobed burs covered with hooked bristles. [1]

Habitat:  Bedstraw grows from sea level to mid-elevations of the mountains.  It is commonly found on beaches, in moist clearings and ditches, and in rich, moist open forests. [1, 4] It tolerates dry soil but scorches quickly in full sun.[6]

Range:  Galium aparine and its close relatives are widespread throughout the United States.[3] It does not thrive in hot climates.[6]

Uses for Galium aparine

Red dye can be made from a decoction of the root.  When this is ingested, it can dye bones red.  It can be rubbed on the hands to remove pitch.  The stems can be used as tinder or stacked as bedding or to filter liquids.[5]

Recipe for Medicinal Tea: Add 3 heaping tablespoons of dried or fresh herb to pint of boiling water, steep for 10 min. Take in mouthful doses throughout the day. This tea has been used to help alleviate allergy symptoms in the spring.[6]


[1] Pojar, Jim, Andrew MacKinnon, and Paul B. Alaback. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast.. Lone Pine Pub, 1994.

[2] USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol =GAAP2

[4] Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture http://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/image collection.php?Genus=Galium&Species=aparine