Weed Seed: Galium aparine (Cleavers)
Secondary Noxious, Class 3 in the Canadian Weed Seeds Order, 2016 under the Seeds Act.
Canadian: Occurs across Canada except in NU and YT (Brouillet et al. 2016Footnote 1).
Worldwide: Native to Eurasia and North America and widely naturalized, found in temperate zones throughout the world and at higher altitudes in the tropics (Malik and Vanden Born 1988Footnote 2, CABI 2016Footnote 3, USDA-ARS 2016Footnote 4). Occurs throughout North America from Alaska to the east coast (Malik and Vanden Born 1988Footnote 2, CABI 2016Footnote 3, USDA-NRCS 2016Footnote 5), with both native and introduced populations present in Canada (Brouillet et al. 2016Footnote 1).
Duration of Life Cycle
Seed or Fruit Type
Schizocarp, divided into 2 fruits
- Fruit diameter: 1.6 - 4.0 mm
- Fruit globose with a prominent hole on the ventral side
- Fruit surface is covered in hooked bristles with tuberculate bases, rarely smooth
- Fruit grey-brown with white bristles
- The hole on the ventral side of the fruit is typically round and deeply-set
Habitat and Crop Association
Arable land, particularly grain fields, fence rows, barnyards and pastures. Also found in deciduous woods, thickets and rocky coastal bluffs, parklands, shores and waste ground (Malik and Vanden Born 1988Footnote 2, Darbyshire 2003Footnote 6). Thrives in moist, well drained habitats, in loam and sandy loam soils (Malik and Vanden Born 1988Footnote 2).
Cleavers may have been introduced to North America in grain fields by early settlers who imported contaminated seed from Eurasia (Malik and Vanden Born 1988Footnote 2). It can also be transported by harvesting equipment and animals (Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Fisheries 2002Footnote 7).
A single plant can produce up to 3,500 seeds that remain viable for up to 6 years in the soil (Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Fisheries 2002Footnote 7). The spiny-hooked fruit is adapted to animal dispersal (Malik and Vanden Born 1988Footnote 2).
False cleavers (Galium spurium)
- The fruits of false cleavers and cleavers both have a globose shape with a hole on the ventral side, a grey-brown colour, and dense, white bristles.
- False cleavers (diameter: 1.0 - 2.5 mm) are generally smaller than cleavers; the bristles have a non-tuberculate base, and the hole is usually a transverse oval.
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