Urban Foraging: Cleavers

As suggested by the name cleavers, meaning to ‘cleave’ or stick together – all parts of this distinctive looking and edible plant will attach itself to nearly anything that brushes past it.

Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a member of the Rubiaceae family which originated from Europe and western Asia and has colonised in Australia. With common names including clivers, catchweed, sticky weed and even sticky willy, it has fine hook-like hairs which form on every part of the plant. Its botanical name ‘Galium’ is derived from the Greek word ‘Gala’ which translates to milk. Galium verum, or goosegrass, which is another member of the genus, was stirred through milk to make it curdle when making cheese.

How To Identify It

Cleavers is found in late spring and throughout summer, and favours a moist, nitrogen-rich, slightly acidic soil. It prefers full sun, but will grow in part shade, and its competitive and climbing nature means it’s usually in a dense, rambling mass. It will often climb over itself and favours growing against walls and fences where it can form a tangled mat.