You are here


Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

An abundant species found in hedgerows and scrubby places across Dorset.



  • Cleavers: espresso, late or cappuccino?

    Post date: Wednesday, 4 June, 2014 - 00:00

    There cannot be a hedgerow in Dorset that does not have cleavers (Galium aparine) amongst its wayside flowers. It is widespread in Dorset, in Britain, across Europe and in to Asia. It has colonised the Americas and Australasia and in the USA it is designated an obnoxious weed!

    I called it a wayside flower but the flowers are very small and many people may not even realise it has a bloom. It is better known as a vigorous green herbaceous plant that can probably hold its own with any other plant as a competitor as it can climb up between other vegetation. The flowers turn into small, prickly seeds or burrs that can cling to clothing and so easily attach to animal fur and birds feathers which is how it spreads itself. These clinging burrs earn it the country name of Sticky Willie although we knew this as goose-grass when I was young and apparently geese do like to eat it

    For some people skin contact with this plant can cause a rash and yet the plant is supposedly edible. As long as they are gathered before the fruits appear the leaves can cooked and eaten as a vegetable but you should not attempt to eat it raw because of the multitude of hooks it possesses to enable it to climb.  Cleavers is in the same botanical family as coffee and apparently the 'fruits' of cleavers have often been dried, roasted and used as a coffee substitute because it contains less caffeine!


Common Name Cleavers
Alternative Name(s) Goose Grass
Scientific Name Galium aparine
Species Group Bedstraw Family Rubiaceae
Interest Level
Look for
Identification Notes
Primary Habitat
Family Bedstraw family - Rubiaceae
Status very common
Flower Colour Group White
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
Preferred Environment
Look for Tiny flowers on a large but straggly plant with 'hooked' stems and leaves
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Bedstraw Family Rubiaceae