Galium Species, Catchweed Bedstraw, Cleavers, Goose Grass, Sticky Willy

Galium aparine

Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Galium (GAL-ee-um) (Info)
Species: aparine (ap-AR-in-nee) (Info)




Water Requirements:

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Sun Exposure:

Partial to Full Shade

Full Shade



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


36-48 in. (90-120 cm)


8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)


Not Applicable

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Mid Summer

Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Direct sow as soon as the ground can be worked

From seed; direct sow after last frost

From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel

Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Seed Collecting:

Collect seedhead/pod when flowers fade; allow to dry

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Vincent, Alabama

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Citrus Heights, California

Los Gatos, California

Napa, California

Apopka, Florida

Pensacola, Florida

Lewiston, Idaho

Lake In The Hills, Illinois

Mount Prospect, Illinois

Flora, Indiana

Valparaiso, Indiana

Story City, Iowa

Barbourville, Kentucky

Benton, Kentucky

Georgetown, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Brookeville, Maryland

Valley Lee, Maryland

Reading, Massachusetts

Picayune, Mississippi

Raymond, Mississippi

Belton, Missouri

Piedmont, Missouri

Silex, Missouri

Missoula, Montana

Fair Lawn, New Jersey

Baldwinsville, New York

Brooklyn, New York

Gasport, New York

Akron, Ohio

Glouster, Ohio

Lebanon, Oregon

Springfield, Oregon

Millersburg, Pennsylvania

Tioga, Pennsylvania

Austin, Texas(3 reports)

Bastrop, Texas

Dallas, Texas

De Leon, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas(2 reports)

Houston, Texas

Richmond, Texas(2 reports)

San Antonio, Texas(2 reports)

Lynchburg, Virginia

Seattle, Washington

Vancouver, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Apr 26, 2016, SlantingHill from Lexington Hills, CA wrote:

The rains this winter in California after the drought have unfortunately hailed the return of this really annoying, invasive weed on a mammoth scale in our oak woodland. It sticks to my gardening gloves, shoes, trousers (pants). But more concerning is how it's little sticky seeds get stuck in my cat's fur, then when he cleans himself they irritate his mouth and the worst is having to rush him to the vet when one gets stuck up his nostril. I'm trying really hard to pull up as much of this stuff as possible, to save on vet bills if nothing else. This stuff also disguises the young shoots of poison hemlock, which along with annual grasses is also is rampant in the woodland this year.


On Apr 26, 2016, Pathatesweed from Citrus Heights, CA wrote:

This weed is terrible! Invasive and tries to strangle my ornamental bushes. But FAR WORSE, it caused me to have a SEVERE anaphylactic allergic reaction and I am now on day 5 of a hospitalization to return to normal breathing. I really hate this weed and am now thinking of moving someplace drier to avoid it.


On May 18, 2015, becky8668 from Gasport, NY wrote:

I was picking this pesky plant around my bushes and it caused me to get painful rash on my arms. I don't like this plant it wraps around my garden. This sticky plants chokes all my other plants. This plant keeps on returning after I kill it. It is a pain in the butt plant.


On Mar 27, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This biennial has become a maintenance nightmare in some large beds of Rosa rugosa.


On Mar 27, 2015, John667 from Austin, TX wrote:

Yes, it is annoying, but it is a good source of green for my compost piles. I have a homemade cement rake. I had a muffler shop weld an iron bar and cross braces onto a garden rake head. The extra weight makes it the ideal tool for clearing large patches without too much bending. I raked up 30 gallons from my neighbor's yard in about ten minutes. If you clear it early enough the seeds aren't mature and it only comes back from the bits hiding in the fenceline.


On Oct 5, 2014, Lollydee from Launceston, Tas,
Australia wrote:

Cleavers (Galium aparine) Sticky Willy, is an invasive pest in Tasmania! With the hot dry Summers we now have due to climate change, it's spread to our beautiful native bushland. It not only causes terrible allergic reactions in humans, but also our wildlife and pets! Fellow deer get red swollen eyes as do, dogs, wallaby and other native wildlife. The plants it enshrouds are left in very poor condition after we pull it off and my face looks like I've been beaten with swollen shut eyes skin worse than when I had chicken pox. I need antihistamines and last year antibiotic's! As far as medicinal uses, try Taraxacum officinale, the common dandelion if you need diuretics! Dandelion leaves are great in salads, teas, the roots as a coffee substitute and cleans the liver, gallbladder, kidney's. Da... read more


On Jun 12, 2013, rhusradicans from Brooklyn, NY wrote:

I've weeded this stuff 2X for clients and it packs a very rashy punch. Wear gloves and a long sleeved shirt ! It sticks to everything. I seem to be allergic. It makes me sneeze, cough, & get a very bad raised rash. So glad it has medicinal use. Does it work for allergic people ?


On May 4, 2013, jesss2012 from Brighton,
United Kingdom wrote:

My dog eats this by the tonne. She rips it out and munches it like a cow. Am glad to find out that is not harmful and actually has medicinal purposes...maybe I shall join her next feast lol


On Mar 18, 2013, reaver456 from Bridgeport, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Weedy but has many uses. Fruit of the plant can be used as a coffee substitute as it contains cafeine. Also appears to have some medicinal use as well. Also makes a good green when cooked


On Mar 9, 2013, HeidiKHandmade from Vancouver, WA wrote:

This invasive plant comes up every year, and I've finally resorted to Round-Up. Not only the burr-like seeds, but also the leaves and stems adhere to you like velcro!
I would much rather play host to thistles; they produce a prettier flower and get attention by bees and butterflies.


On Mar 5, 2013, hnz57txn from Kaufman, TX wrote:

So glad to read an entry from 2008 about a dog ingesting and loving this weed. I have a 17 month old Dobie who has discovered the weed inhabiting some empty flower pots in the yard.
Yes, he has found a new grazing greenery. I will watch him of course to make sure there are no ill effects, but this will be a weed I don't have to worry about in the yard.


On Jul 22, 2012, DMersh from Perth,
United Kingdom (Zone 7b) wrote:

Contender for the title of Ultimate Weed this is actually quite an inoffensive plant (compare to other same habitat weeds Thistle - vicious spines or Stinging Nettle - painful toxic stinging hairs), it mainly affects longer haired dogs who get coated in its sticky seed pods. Produces flowers so tiny they are easily missed.


On Jun 12, 2012, carpathiangirl from Akron, OH (Zone 5a) wrote:

So glad to learn about the benefits of this 'weed', thanks you all DGers for the great info. Yes, I have it in my beds but had no problem pulling it now and then. Besides never seen a single one in my lawn. And from now on every time the new 'crop' is ready I'm about to drink it! sounds definitely better option than pop, why not to take advantage of what the plant has to offer? If only a small part of overweight people made an effort to pull this weed and drink some tea made of it we would have a little slimmer nation I guess?....

And one more positive thing I found about the plant: A good species to grow in the wild garden, it provides food for the larvae of many butterfly species[Carter D. Butterflies and Moths in Britain and Europe. An excellent book on Lepidoptera, it al... read more


On May 20, 2012, pmcatnip from Lebanon, OR wrote:

This plant is a super invasive weed in Oregon. I can't imagine why anyone would want to cultivate it. I pull it out but there's so much on my property I can't keep up with it. And the seeds stick to everything--your clothes, the cat--so it spreads really fast from one year to the next.

Another user said, "I don't think it can compete with a healthy lawn." It may not be a problem for those of you in Texas where it's sunny all the time but here in Oregon the sticky plant is taking over grass in the shady parts of my yard.


On May 17, 2012, mrsh600 from Lake in the Hills, IL wrote:

HATE HATE HATE this has taken over our raspberry patch...and is growing all over the flower beds...sticky, irritating plant. Our neighbor thought she had poison ivy last summer, but I looked everywhere in her yard, saw no poison ivy, but plenty of this's everywhere. If any of you live in NE IL....I pulled up a garbage CAN FULL of the stuff up and I still have more to go if u want it lol We didn't plant it either...


On May 6, 2012, tummy from Courtdale, PA wrote:

Is anyone allergic to this plant/weed/cleavers? I break out with a rash comparable to poision ivy. I would like to know how to kill it naturally. Also,if a person is allergic to this plant, can they use it for it medicinal properties?


On Mar 17, 2012, Liz82 from Austin, TX wrote:

This plant is very invasive! If you are not careful it will take up your entire yard, and it can choke out other plants by climbing up on them and just making itself at home. right now I am trying to fight it off & pull any I see - it is strangling all my other plants & honey sickle in my drive way...I do not like this plant at all :(


On Jul 31, 2011, seamus22 from great chart,
United Kingdom wrote:

We live in a fairly rural area in southeast England surrounded by farmland. Last week, our Jack Russell went off in search of rabbits and came back with both eyes surrounded by red, inflamed patches of raw skin, in addition to scrapes on his chest and legs. We had no idea what had happened and rushed him to the vet. The vet told us it was chemical burns and treated him with antihistamines and an ointment for the burns. We searched the whole area and found nothing. Then my husband took him for a walk on a leash and saw firsthand what had happened. He ran through the soybean field which had loads of goosegrass. As he ran, he closed his eyes and the goosegrass scraped across his eyelids and body. This is a nasty plant!


On May 31, 2011, Draines22 from Salem, OR wrote:

We have plenty of Sticky Willy in Salem, OR. At least it is easy to
pull out and get rid of, or it has been for me. I hate it sticking to me.
It does have some usefulness and is edible.


On May 23, 2011, cacatua from Story City, IA wrote:

Catchweed is what it is - a thug. The only good thing now about pulling it is that it sticks together in this big blob, and every so often I can hurl the ball of it away and begin another one. I do have fond memories of it from several years ago though. I had a camel and a donkey and they both loved the stuff so I would collect it in these big balls in the woods and toss it over the fence to them. The camel would get this big goofy grin and begin munching happily away, but then camels love thistles, gooseberry bushes and multiflora rose bushes as well.

I don't like the feel of catchweed but it has never given me a rash as someone else mentioned, and the smell is pleasant. I have one variety of bedstraw that has the wonderful smell of new-mown hay.


On Jun 23, 2010, noslouch from Rathdrum, ID wrote:

This is a truly evil, invasive plant. It was never invited to live here with us. The delicate flowers are misleading. You'll get a terrible rash if it makes skin contact. Be sure to wear long sleeves and gloves when you attempt to eradicate. It appears all over, even in well established flower and vegetable beds plus all over our 10 acres of forest. I am totally commited to organic gardening practices so will continue to keep yanking this crap-sandwich plant.


On Feb 27, 2010, vossner from East Texas,
United States (Zone 8a) wrote:

I consider it a weed. Only good thing is that it's easy to pull off.


On Dec 27, 2009, texasflora_com from De Leon, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

In my area, Sticky willy germinates in the late fall and is one of the few annuals to stay green after frosts, freezes and snow. Right now, it's covering the entire ground in deep shade in some woods here. As far as its negative aspect, I don't think it can compete with a healthy lawn and if it comes up in flower beds, pull it while it's young and mulch more.


On May 25, 2008, StephieG from Holts Summit, MO wrote:

Updated - April 2009
I wrote about our dog and this plant last year.
This year she (the dog) is completely healed and still eating
this weed and has all the other dogs eating it also.
They love it for some reason. It is pretty coarse and sticky,
it is hard to believe they like it so much.
We have 2 new dogs we are taking care of this year and
they also are eating this weed. They have eaten all of it
that is inside our 1 acre fenced yard, all along the fence line. So I go outside the fence line and pick it and they eat it out
of my hand as fast as I pick it .... like it is a great treat or
Anyway,,,, they are eating it so fast that it is not going to
be able to go to seed and I think ne... read more


On May 16, 2007, chicochi3 from Fayetteville, AR (Zone 6b) wrote:

This plant is a pest, but on the positive side, it's rather pretty and real easy to pull up!


On Jun 26, 2006, Sherlock_Holmes from Rife, PA (Zone 6a) wrote:

Unlike in most areas, here Cleavers is a native species. And while most consider it to be a noxious weed, I don't. Here is some information from The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America by Francois Couplan, Ph.D.

"The young shoots of G. aparine are edible raw. Older leaves and stems become impregnated with silicon and are too tough to be used as food. The long stems and the leaf margins are lined with hooked bristles and stick together. They were formerly used as a filter to strain milk and other liquids.

The fruits are one of the best coffee substitutes. They should be picked when their color turns from green to brown, and then parched. After roasting, they develop a distinctive aroma strongly reminiscent of coffee (Coffea spp.). It must be ... read more


On May 10, 2006, jbrowitt from Lewiston, ID wrote:

We are overrun with Catchweed and my (unsuccessful) solution is to pull it as soon as I see it ... it requires too much vigilance for my taste, even the birds don't seem to like it. It tends to damage more fragile plants as it is pulled because it is so sticky and tenacious.


On May 3, 2006, CaptMicha from Brookeville, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

My judgement of this weed isn't too harsh. Most likely I haven't been able to observe it's thuggishness because it's pitted against much worse weeds on my property like rose, honeysuckle, virginia creeper, garlic mustard, etc.


On Feb 11, 2006, raisedbedbob from Walkerton, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

This is a really nasty weed; however it is edible! The young shoots can be boiled for 10-15 minutes and serves with butter. The ripe fruit can be slow roasted until dark brown and ground to yield a coffee substitute.


On Aug 24, 2005, seekingSol from Reading, MA (Zone 6a) wrote:

Catchweed is considered invasive or noxious in many parts of the US, Canada and Australia. It is difficult to control, let alone to eradicate. I've had some luck smothering large patches under a foot or so of leaves, then hand-pulling the stuff that pops through. It is an annual, so I've been trying to pull it before it goes to seed in early summer. Be very careful with this one!


On Apr 14, 2005, gacarnegie from Davis, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

It's all over here in the Sacramento valley and it's a real pest. Remove it as fast as you can and use gloves because it's really irrating to skin... I get rashes and even small boils when it comes into contact with my skin.


On Mar 3, 2005, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

This plant emerges in late winter here in West KY. I spend the better part of the next 3 months pulling it out. Despite it's herbal properties, I still don't like it...there will always be plenty on this property if I ever want to make a tea.

The brittle vines break and it is impossible to get the whole plant. Every little piece seems to be able to regenerate.


On Mar 4, 2004, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Although this plant is a fast grower and rambles over everything in its path, as an herb it is used as a dried extract (capsules and powders), in herbal teas and even eaten raw. When researching this plant, I was amazed at how many ailments it is supposed to relieve including the following: allergies, kidney disfunction, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) because it is a diuritic, PMS, lymphatic system dysfunction, strep throat, tonsillitis, adenoid ailments, ulcers and tumors. It is even sited as an herbal remedy for horse "sweet itch" ("summer itch") caused by a horse's allergic reaction to sandfly bites because it is supposed to help strengthen the coat and to assist in cleansing the blood by clearing the lymphatic system of toxins. Rather than listing them all because they are so num... read more


On Jan 17, 2004, Daan wrote:

In the Edwardian Age people used to get a whole bunch of Sticky Willy and put it in hot water and drink it for a whole month. It seemed to make their skin very beautiful and that heaps of people fell in love with them.


On Jun 3, 2003, ayan wrote:

In the southeast US, catchweed bedstraw is an obnoxious weed. It grows very quickly, starting in early summer: one day you'll have a huge spreading clump clambering over grass, up fences, and across beds. It pulls easily from the ground -- but the brittle stems break, leaving pieces that will regrow, and the little sticky/burred seedpods cling to socks, grass, pets, everything. If you see even a small clump, grab it as soon as possible.

I haven't tried chemical controls; I just rip and rip until it gives up for the summer. The sap is mildly irritating to my skin, so wash your hands and arms if you don't want a red rash. I wouldn't recommend composting, and I certainly wouldn't plant this as any kind of ornamental.


On Apr 3, 2003, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

I can see why it's listed as a noxious weed in several areas; it has a prostrate habit, its stems "stick" to anything that brushes against it, and the flowers are tiny compared to the rest of the plant.

When it first appeared, I was anxious to see what my mystery plant was, and even hoped it might be a good candidate to transplant and cultivate, but once it started growing, I quickly realized it has few - if any - redeeming qualities. I think I'll stick with G. odoratum :)