E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Galium aparine L.
cleavers (stickywilly)
Rubiaceae (Madder family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Brian Klinkenberg  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #9206)

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Distribution of Galium aparine
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Species Information

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Annual herb from a taproot; stems weak, climbing or prostrate, solitary, few branched, square, short-hairy on the angles, the hairs pointed downwards, 10-100 cm tall/long.
Basal leaves few, soon deciduous; stem leaves in whorls of 8 (sometimes 6), narrowly oblanceolate, 1-4 (7) cm long, lowermost stalked, upper ones unstalked, entire, awn-tipped, 1-veined, bristly-hairy along the margins, bristly-hairy above, with hooked hairs, the hairs pointed backwards.
Inflorescence of 3-5, stalked, terminal flowers on branchlets in most leaf axils; corollas saucer-shaped, white, 1.6-2 mm wide, 4-lobed; calyces obsolete.
Nutlets, 2, 3-5 mm wide, with numerous, short, hooked hairs.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Mid Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present over the Spring
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist to mesic fields, waste places, beaches and open forests in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; common on Vancouver Island, less frequent on Queen Charlotte Islands, SW BC and SC BC; circumpolar, N to S AK, E to NF and S to FL, TX and CA; Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Additional Notes

There is debate as to the origin status of this species. While some consider it native to North America, some feel it is introduced. It is possible it is native but that it has also been introduced from Europe (Gucker 2005).

References Gucker, Corey L. 2005. Galium aparine. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available Online.


Ecological Framework for Galium aparine

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 472 1710
Slope Gradient (%) 0 29 135
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
20 203 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 3 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: BG(4), CDF(110), CMA(1), CWH(52), ESSF(13), ICH(25), IDF(20), MH(1), MS(9), PP(11), SBS(1)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to montane, circumpolar forb (transcontinental in North America). Occurs in cool temperate and cool mesothermal climates on nitrogen-rich soils: its occurrence decreases with increasing elevation. Common in herbaceous communities on disturbed sites; sporadic in open-canopy, broad-leaved forests on water-shedding and water-receiving sites. A nitrophytic species characteristic of Moder and Mull humus forms.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is cool temperate & cool mesothermal.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Galium agreste var. echinospermum Wallr.
Galium aparine subsp. spurium (L.) Simonkai
Galium aparine var. echinospermum (Wallr.) Farw.
Galium aparine var. intermedium (Merr.) Briq.
Galium aparine var. minor Hook.
Galium aparine var. vaillantii (DC.) Koch
Galium spurium var. echinospermum (Wallr.) Hayek
Galium spurium var. vaillantii (DC.) G. Beck
Galium vaillantii DC.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References