Sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick to your clothes. It's an annual and easy removed. Cleavers ( Galium aparine ), with its characteristic ‘sticky’ seeds, is easily introduced to gardens from uncultivated land and can become a nuisance in beds and borders.
Goose Grass, Sticky Willy
Often remembered from childhood, goose grass or sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick to your clothes. It’s an annual and easy removed but also easily spreads with its self sown seedlings. Can grow up to 4ft high. Sticky Willy can grow rapidly during warm weather. The sticky stems are able to scramble around the garden, smothering small, cultivated plants and setting masses of seed. It’s usually introduced on the coats of animals, birds’ feathers or human clothing. Its lifecycle is approximately eight weeks from germination to setting seed.
The leaves and stem are covered with hooked hairs that latch onto anything that brushes against them.
2 to 5 stalked flowers appear at the end of a stem. Individual flowers have 4 pointed white petals with a greenish center, and are about 1/16 inch across.
Sticky Willy is a common garden weed and likes shade. Keep a close eye out for it as it will creep around your plants, spreading as it goes.
Remove Sticky Willy regularly by hand, or hoe off young seedlings before they set seed. Avoid getting seeds on clothing, as this can inadvertently spread it around the garden. Mulch borders with a 5cm layer of garden compost or composted bark to suppress seedlings.
Not Just a Weed
The leaves and stems of the plant can be cooked as a leaf vegetable if gathered before the fruits appear.
Sticky Willy is a reliable herb and is used to clean urinary stones and to treat urinary infections.
Welcome to Weedipedia.
At Vialii, we are strong proponents of organic gardening and try to avoid weedkiller if we can. To many people, weeds are wonderful things, whether they are grown as pretty wildflowers or for their health benefits. But we understand they can be frustrating in gardens so our Weedipedia pages detail our most common weeds, how to identify & get rid of them but also their benefits too. If you need help getting rid of your own weeds please get in touch.
Goose Grass, Sticky Willy
Often remembered from childhood, goose grass or sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick.
Horse or Mares Tail
One of the most dreaded of weeds, Mares Tail can spread like wildfire so if you see it, deal with.
Larger Bindweed, Hedge Bindweed
Bindweed is a notorious, perennial weed which no gardener wants to find in their garden as its so hard to.
Chickweed is one of the most common of weeds with the most delicate tiny white star-shaped flowers hence its Latin.
Creeping buttercup is a common perennial weed with low-lying foliage that forms mats. Its instantly recognisable glossy yellow flowers appear.
Cleavers (Galium aparine), with its characteristic ‘sticky’ seeds, is easily introduced to gardens from uncultivated land and can become a nuisance in beds and borders.
Common name Cleavers, goosegrass, sticky willie
Botanical name Galium aparine
Areas affected Beds and borders, hedgerows and uncultivated ground
Main causes Easily distributed seed produced in large quantities
Timing Seen spring-autumn; treat during growing season
What is cleavers?
Cleavers is a common annual weed native to hedgerows, scrub and arable land, which can spread to gardens on the fur of animals and clothing of passers-by. Although seedlings usually appear singly, rather than en masse like many other common weeds, the numerous and easily distributed seeds mean the weed can quickly establish in gardens if not controlled promptly.
Cleavers can be a good addition to a wildlife garden, as it provides food for the caterpillars of many butterfly and moth species, including the impressive hummingbird hawk moth.
Butterflies in your garden
Moths in your garden
This page looks at options for gardeners when cleavers are becoming a problem.
Weak, sprawling stems, up to 1m (39in) long bear whorls of 6-8 long, slender green leaves with a prominent central vein. Tiny greenish-white flowers are borne in branching clusters from May to August and develop into round, green or purple fruits 3-5mm in diameter. Stems, leaves and seed have stiff hooked hairs.
The RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.
- Hand-pulling or hoeing of weed seedlings is the easiest way to control this weed, but is time consuming and needs doing promptly – before plants flower and set seed – to be effective. Use gloves if grasping stems directly. As seeds can lie dormant in the soil for long periods of time, this task will be on-going.
- To help reduce the number of seeds introduced to the garden, brush down clothing and pet fur following walks on arable or uncultivated land where the weed is most commonly found. It is also important to avoid adding any mature weeds, which have set seed, to a home compost bin.
- To prevent germination of weed seedlings, apply an opaque mulching film or layer of bulky organic mulch, such as woodchips, to the soil at a depth of at least 8cm (3in).
In beds and borders
Non-selective contact herbicides containing acetic acid (eg. Weedol Gun! Fast Acting, Roundup Speed Ultra or Spot On Fast Acting Weedkiller), fatty acids (eg. SBM Job Done Garden Ultrafast Weedkiller) or pelargonic acid (Doff 24/7 Fast Acting Weedkiller, Resolva Xpress Weedkiller or Roundup NL Weed Control) can be used in such situations to scorch off foliage. Take care if applying such herbicides between ornamental plants by covering them with plastic sheeting whilst spraying. The covers can be removed once the spray has dried onto the weed foliage.
The systemic non-selective herbicide glyphosate can be used in the same way, but it is particularly important to avoid spray or spray drift coming into contact with garden plants. If treating weeds in the immediate vicinity of garden plants, apply carefully using a ready-to-use spray in cool, calm weather. Protect branches and shoots by tying them aside, or by using covers or screens. Make sure weed foliage has dried before releasing branches or removing coverings.
Around established trees and shrubs
SBM Job done Tough Weedkiller (ready-to-use only), SBM Job done Path Weedkiller (ready-to-use only) and Weedol Pathclear products containing glyphosate/diflufenican and can be applied once a season to natural surfaces where no plants are to be grown, and can also be applied under and around established woody trees and shrubs. This product kills off existing small green growth and prevents or checks developing growth. Check manufacturer’s recommendations before use to avoid damaging sensitive plants.
Inclusion of a weedkiller product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.
Weedkillers for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining weedkillers available to gardeners; see sections 3a and 5).