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Edible Edible Autumn Autumn Spring Spring Summer Summer Winter Winter

Useful as a food in the past and just as good today as it can be found year round.

Hedgerow Type
Common Names Cleavers, Goosegrass, Sticky Willies
Scientific Name Galium aparine
Season Start Jan
Season End Dec
Please note that each and every hedgerow item you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.


Small, thin, hairy, green leaves growing in small rosettes along the vertical stem.


Tiny, white, four petaled flowers.


Small round hook laden seeds that will stick to you or your dog if brushed past.


Has a square stem covered in many tiny hooks.


Hedges, path and roadsides, waste ground and woodland.

Possible Confusion

Quite difficult to confuse with anything else.


Edible when very young or cooked, if a little fibrous and bitter. Should be eaten before the seeds appear in summer but can be found all year round.


Just the fresh looking tops should be picked or wait until the seeds have fully hardened, roast and use as a coffee substitute.

Other Facts

Annoying other kids in the playground.
It has also been used to strain hairs from milk.


6 comments for Cleavers

  1. Skye says:

    Cleavers can be used as a spring tonic, making a refreshing drink. Infuse in a jug of water overnight or minimum for one hour. Lemon balm also lends itself very well to this cold infusion method, the aroma of balm being so lovely.

  2. Sally Garrett says:

    I come out on big red wheals on skin contact with goosegrass. Would it be likely to affect me badly if I made up and drank the tonic, please, or is it just the contact aspect?. Many thanks.

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I react to contact with Cleavers but am fine eating it. Everybody is different so try a small amount first and wait to see if there is a reaction.

  3. Josh Gillett says:

    whats the smell of this leaf as I believe I have the same picked myself with a strong grassy smell

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Cleavers have a grassy, slightly pea like smell and will stick to your clothes due to the ‘hooks’ on the leaves.

  4. Sarita says:

    Cleavers is a mild diuretic, and it’s a wonderful spring tonic for the lymphatic system if you soak it overnight and drink the water in the morning.

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