Cleavers (Galium tricornutum)

Photo: (c) Stefan Lefnaer

Family: Rubiaceae

Growth Habit: Sprawling many branched stems up to 150 cm long. Its climbing habit allows it to climb up and over, and eventually overwhelm many crops. The narrow club shaped leaves (up to 50 mm) are arranged in whorls of 6-8 on square stems (initially four leaves per whorl). The upper surface of the leaves have stout hooked hairs on the margin as do the stems. This gives the plant a distinctive sticky feel.

Type of Plant: An annual herb.

Photo: (c) Stefan Lefnaer

Flowers: Small white flowers, 2 mm in diametre, with 4 petals, are located at the end of a short 2 mm stalk arising from the nodes.

Fruit/Seed: The fruits are distinctive and produced in pairs. They are covered in spiny hairs and have a sticky feeling. They adhere readily to clothing or animals. Numerous small seeds are produced. They germinate in autumn to winter.

Dispersal: The sticky globular fruit adheres easily to clothing and animals. The stems also adhere to clothing and animal fur, assisting spread of and seeds still attached to the plant. Seeds survive ingestation by livestock and birds and can be spread in manure. Can also occur as a contaminant in crop seed.

Distribution: Mainly a weed of wastelands and gardens, but also crops and orchards. Found in most parts of the State.

Status: Undeclared in Tasmania.

Weed Impact:

  • Cleavers may cause significant losses to crops.
  • Mature stems can impede harvesting.

For further information contact the Department of Primary Industry, Water and Environment, Tasmania.

Control Methods:

  • Grubbing. Remove small infestations by hand.
  • Mulching. Areas can be mulched to prevent germination.
  • Herbicide. Herbicides registered in Tasmania include dicamba, dicamba + MCPA, diquat, glyphosate and mecoprop. Mature plants are moderately resistant to some herbicide treatments.

N.B. Always check the herbicide label before use.