Galium aparine (Sticky-willy)

Plant Info
Also known as: Cleavers, Catchweed Bedstraw, Goose-grass
Family:Rubiaceae (Madder)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist woods, thickets
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:4 to 40 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals

[photo of flowers] 2 to 5 stalked flowers at the end of a stem that arises from a leaf axil. Individual flowers have 4 pointed white petals with a greenish center, and are about 1/16 inch across.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: whorl Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are whorled in groups of 6 to 8, narrow, ¾ to 3½ inches long and less than ½ inch wide, broadest towards the tip, with a spine-like sharp point at the tip. The stem is square. The leaves and stem are covered with hooked hairs (see the flower photo above for a better close-up) that latch onto anything that brushes against them. Stems are weak and few-branched, the plant sometimes erect but more often sprawling, or climbing up surrounding vegetation.

Fruit: Fruit type: barbed Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a tiny ball-like capsule, containing a single seed. The capsules are also covered with tiny barbs and stick to anything that passes by.


The common name Sticky-willy is appropriate—the hooked hairs on leaves, stems and fruit grab onto anything that brush by, mostly shoelaces, socks and pant legs. A similar species is Rough Bedstraw (Galium asprellum), which is much more heavily branched, has shorter leaves whorled in 4 to (mostly) 6, smooth fruit, more flowers in a cluster, and is primarily a wetland species

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Michaeline - Eagan
on: 2009-06-09 08:17:12

I just found this weed in my back yard in Eagan. I was curious about it and finally found your web site.

Posted by: Connie
on: 2009-06-20 16:19:54

I have been wondering about the name of this flower. I have it in quite a few of the unmown places on my property and in amongst some hosta right next to my house. I try not to pick all the "weeds" just in case I have found another wildflower. They're only weeds if you don't want 'em! Thanks for your website!

Posted by: Karen - Meeker County
on: 2011-04-28 14:59:28

I discovered this plant in our grove last year and consider it quite invasive. By the end of the growing cycle this plant had completely covered a half acre.

Posted by: Terry - Alden Township, St Louis Cty
on: 2014-07-04 14:11:39

Cleavers is also a medicinal plant used by many.Last year I found some growing along a shady creek area and was going out to see if it was ready to pick, but alas, there was hardly any there. It is the time of flowering and the best time for gathering this plant. I want to make a tincture to be used for lymphatic support. Anyone in my neighborhood that knows where i might find Cleavers?

Posted by: Jesse Puka-Beals - Clay County, MB Johnson Park
on: 2020-05-18 18:04:24

Went for a walk at MB Johnson Park in Moorhead MN and saw so much of this plant I thought it was invasive. Younger plants didn't seem to have any hooks on their leaves, but I found a patch of more mature plants that definitely had those hooks. This was on May 18, 2020

Posted by: Michelle - Northern Ontario, Canada
on: 2021-08-16 16:27:21

I live in Latchford Ontario, Canada. This plant sticky Willy was in a nursery bought plant and it has freeloaded in a planter. Cannot find out its zone number. Just wondering if it will survive my zone 2-3. Thank you for your help. Michelle

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-08-17 07:37:01

Michelle, according to the national distribution, it is present in Alaska and throughout most of Canada, so yes it will survive.

Posted by: OhBee - Actually in western Wisconsin.
on: 2022-05-20 18:21:01

Fool plant grows in full sun here. Wet soil, poor soil, it grows! Keep pulling and mowing it off and it still survives.

Posted by: dexter - saint paul
on: 2024-02-20 12:44:09

the plant is very unquie with cool leaves

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