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

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© Brian Klinkenberg     (Photo ID #9206)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Galium aparine
Click here to view the full interactive map and legend

Species Information

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.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.

USDA Species Characteristics

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


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)
472 0 1710
Slope Gradient (%)
29 0 135

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

203 20 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
3 0 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
# 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)

Habitat and 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.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


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 L.
Galium spurium var. echinospermum (Wallr.) Hayek
Galium spurium var. vaillantii (DC.) G. Beck
Galium vaillantii DC.

Taxonomic 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.