Substances & Homeopatic Remedies

Galium aparine

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Galium aparine


Short for Our Lady's Bedstraw, name for a plant of the genus Galium, whose foliage was used to stuff mattresses in medieval times

Middle English clivers, probably blend of clife, burdock (from Old English clfe), and clivres, claws (from Old English clifras, pl. of clifer)


Traditional name

Cleavers. Goosegrass. Barweed. Hedgeheriff. Hayriffe. Eriffe. Grip Grass. Hayruff. Catchweed. Scratweed. Mutton Chops. Robin-run-in-the-Grass. Loveman. Goosebill. Everlasting Friendship.

German: Kletten- Labkraut

Used parts

Tincture and infusion of fresh plant. Extract.


N. O. Galiacae (considered by some a sub-order of Rubiacae).


Original proving

Description of the substance

The natural order Rubiaceae, to which the Madder (Rubia tinctoria) and our common wild plants, the Clivers, the Bedstraws and Sweet Woodruff belong, comprises upwards of 3,000 species. Many of these are of the highest utility to man, both as food and medicine, among the former the coffee-tree, Coffea Arabica, is perhaps of the first importance. The valuable drug quinine is furnished by several species of Cinchona, a South American genus, and drugs of similar properties are derived from other plants of the same tribe, while Ipecacuanha is the powdered root of another member of this order, growing in the forests of Brazil. Many species growing in tropical climates are moreover noted for the beauty and fragrance of their flowers.

Our British representatives are of a very different character, being all herbaceous plants, with slender, angular stems, bearing leaves arranged in whorls, or rosettes and small flowers. From the star-like arrangement of their leaves, all these British species have been assigned to the tribe Stellatae of the main order Rubiaceae. All the members of this tribe, numbering about 300, grow in the cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

Of the fifteen British representatives of the tribe Stellatae, eleven bear the name of Galium (the genus of the Bedstraws), and perhaps the commonest of these is the annual herb Galium aparine, familiarly known as Clivers or Goosegrass, though it rejoices in many other popular names in different parts of the country.

The angles of its quadrangular stalks and leaves are covered with little hooked bristles, which attach themselves to passing objects, and by which it fastens itself in a ladder-like manner to adjacent shrubs, so as to push its way upwards through the dense vegetation of the hedgerows into daylight, its rough, weak stems then struggling over and through all the other wayside plants, often forming matted masses.

The narrow, lance-shaped leaves (Professor Henslow explains that though the Galiums look as if they possessed whorls of six leaves, in reality each whorl consists of only two real leaves, one of which may usually be recognized by having a bud or shoot arising from its axil, the other four are stipules, two belonging to each leaf. - Editor.) - about 1/2 inch long and 1/4 inch broad - are arranged in rosettes or whorls, six or eight together, and are rough all over both margins and surface, the prickles pointing backwards. The flowers two or three together, spring from the axils of the leaves and are small and star-like, either white or greenish-white. They are followed by little globular seed-vessels, about 8 inch in diameter, covered with hooked bristles and readily adhering, like the leaves, to whatever they touch. By clinging to the coat of any animal that touches them, the dispersal of the seeds is ensured.

Most of the plant's popular names are connected with the clinging nature of the herb. Some of its local names are of very old origin, being derived from the Anglo-Saxon 'hedge rife,' meaning a taxgatherer or robber, from its habit of plucking the sheep as they pass near a hedge. The old Greeks gave it the name Philanthropon, from its habit of clinging. The specific name of the plant, aparine, also refers to this habit, being derived from the Greek aparo (to seize). Clite, Click, Clitheren, Clithers are no doubt various forms of Cleavers, and Loveman is merely an Anglicized version of Philanthropon. Its frequent name, Goosegrass, is a reference to the fact that geese are extremely fond of the herb. It is often collected for the purpose of giving it to poultry. Horses, cows and sheep will also eat it with relish.

The seeds of Clivers form one of the best substitutes for coffee; they require simply to be dried and slightly roasted over a fire, and so prepared, have much the flavour of coffee. They have been so used in Sweden. The whole plant gives a decoction equal to tea.

We learn from Dioscorides that the Greek shepherds of his day employed the stems of this herb to make a rough sieve, and it is rather remarkable that Linnaeus reported the same use being made of it in Sweden, in country districts, as a filter to strain milk; the stalks are still used thus in Sweden.

The plant is inodorous, but has a bitterish and somewhat astringent taste.

The roots will dye red, and if eaten by birds will tinge their bones.

  World-wide native annual, original origin is debatable, common in Australia, Britain, China, Europe, France, Iraq, Mexico, Spain, Turkey, US. Found growing in hedgerows, woods, fields, among cultivated crops and in waste places. Cultivation: Cleavers is very easy to cultivate it prefers a loose moist leafy soil in partial shade, this plant does not really need any help to reproduce itself and can be invasive. It provides food for the larvae of many butterfly species. The stems and leaves are covered with little hooked bristles, which attach to passing objects, in this way it fastens itself to adjacent shrubs, to climb its way upwards through dense undergrowth into daylight, often forming matted masses. Leaves are narrow, lance-shaped and are rough along the margins and surface, the prickles pointing backwards, they occur in whorls of 6 to 8 leaves, around and along the square, delicate, branching stem which may grow to 6 or more feet in length. The flowers are white, tiny, 1/16 to 1/8 inch in diameter and star-like, growing in a stemmed bud rising from the leaf axils and arranged in clusters or whorls, six or eight together, blooming separately, 2 or 3 at a time, so flowers and seeds are present in each cluster. The seeds are little round vessels, covered with hooked bristles and readily clinging, to whatever they touch, ensuring dispersal of the seeds. Note: Some species produce only 2 or 3 flowers and seeds to a cluster. Flowers bloom April thru Sept. Gather the above ground plant, being careful not to gather whatever it touches. Dry for later herb use, should be picked through before drying to ensure herb is contaminant free.


Hedgerows and as a weed of cultivated land[7]. Moist and grassy places on most types of soil[17].
Habitat---It is abundant as a hedgerow weed, not only throughout Europe, but also in North America, springing up luxuriantly about fields and waste places.

1.2     Width:  3.0

Cultivation Details:

Prefers a loose moist leafy soil in some shade[200]. Plants tolerate dry soils, but they quickly become scorched when growing in full sun[200]. They do not not thrive in a hot climate[200]. Another report says that plants succeed in most soils in full sun or heavy shade. A scrambling plant, the stems and leaves are covered with little hooked bristles by which it can adhere to other plants and climb into them[4]. A good species to grow in the wild arden, it provides food for the larvae of many butterfly species[30].

Propagation Notes:


Best sown in situ as soon as ripe in late summer[200]. The seed can also be sown in spring though it may be very slow to germinate[200]. Once established, this plant does not really need any help to reproduce itself.
Cleavers and goosegrass are two of the other names for this extremely common species. It is perhaps most often noticed scrambling over plants in hedges, but grows in a variety of other places, including coastal shingle banks and rubbish dumps. It is a slender but vigorous climbing annual, covered by tiny hooked bristles. The flowers are tiny and four-petalled and they are succeeded by small, hard, green globular fruits which are also covered by hooked bristles. The plant is notorious for its ability to cling (or cleave - whence 'cleavers') to clothing or animal fur.
This plant is one of a group called the bedstraws (Galium spp.), all of which have slender stems and leaves arranged in whorls at the nodes. All have white flowers except lady's bedstraw (G. verum).

Flowers and Foliage:
The flowers are classified as hermaphrodite.

Flies, beetles, self are responsible for pollinating this variety.
This species is generally considered frost tolerant.
This plant provides food & shelter for native wildlife.
The following areas are considered to be this plants natural range: Britain..

Landscaping and Planting:
This plant variety generally cannot be successfully grown in areas where the soil quality is of a poor standard, ie lacking in sufficient nutrients.  This plant variety does not tolerate heavy clay soils.  This variety can be grown in anything from a light to a heavy soil mixture.  A well drained soil is not required to successfully grow this variety.  As far as hardiness goes, this variety is fairly reliable.  This variety can be grown in just about any position from full shade to full sun.  It is preferable to plant this variety in a dry to moist position.