AskDefine | Define cleavers

Dictionary Definition

cleavers n : annual having the stem beset with curved prickles; North America and Europe and Asia [syn: clivers, goose grass, catchweed, spring cleavers, Galium aparine]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Plural of cleaver

Extensive Definition

Galium aparine is a herbaceous annual plant of the family Rubiaceae. It is native to North America and Eurasia. It has several common names, including Cleavers, Clivers, Goosegrass, Stickywilly, Stickyweed, Catchweed, Robin-run-the-hedge and Coachweed.
The long stems of this climbing plant sprawl over the ground and other plants, reaching heights of 1-1.5 m, occasionally 2 m. The leaves are simple and borne in whorls of six to eight. Both leaves and stem have fine hairs tipped with tiny hooks, making them cling to clothes and fur much like velcro. The white to greenish flowers are 2-3 mm across, with four petals.
It flowers in early spring to summer, with the flowers occurring in most of the leaf nodes. The fruits are clustered 1-3 seeds together; each seed is 4-6 mm diameter, and is also covered with hooked hairs (a burr) which cling to animal fur, aiding in seed dispersal.
It is a common weed in hedges and other low shrubby vegetation, and is also a common weed in arable fields, as well as gardens. As they grow quite rampantly and thickly, they end up shading out any small plants that they overrun.
The seeds are similar size to cereal grains, and so are a common contaminant in cereals since they are difficult to filter out. The presence of some seed in cereals is not considered a serious problem as they are not toxic.
When dried and roasted, the fruits of this plant can be used to make a coffee-like drink. The plant can also be made into a tea.


The plant was traditionally used to treat skin diseases. It is a diuretic and vulnerary. Herbalists use it to lower blood pressure and body temperature, as well as for cystitis.
The whole plant is considered rich in vitamin C. Its roots produce a red dye, and the tea has been used as an anti-perspirant (by the Chinese), and as a relief for head colds (home remedy), restlessness, and sunburns. As a pulp, it has been used to relieve poisonous bites.


Gallium aparine is edible, with a sweet smell and taste, and can be eaten as a wild salad green, provided the hooks are removed prior to ingestion. Varieties such as Galium boreale which do not contain the small hooks on the stem are not as palatable as the hooked varieties of Galium (Galium aparine), but are important plants to remember for survival purposes.


Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West, Gregory L. Tilford, ISBN 0-87842-359-1

External links

cleavers in Czech: Svízel přítula
cleavers in Danish: Burre-Snerre
cleavers in German: Kletten-Labkraut
cleavers in Spanish: Galium aparine
cleavers in French: Gaillet gratteron
cleavers in Upper Sorbian: Lěpjacy sydrik
cleavers in Italian: Galium aparine
cleavers in Georgian: ბეგიაური (მცენარე)
cleavers in Lithuanian: Kibusis lipikas
cleavers in Dutch: Kleefkruid
cleavers in Narom: Galium aparine
cleavers in Polish: Przytulia czepna
cleavers in Swedish: Snärjmåra
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