Weed Seed: Galium spurium (False cleavers)



Common Name

False cleavers


Secondary Noxious, Class 3 in the Canadian Weed Seeds Order, 2016 under the Seeds Act.


Canadian: Occurs in AB, BC, MB, ON, QC and SK (Malik and Vanden Born 1988Footnote 1).

Worldwide: Native to northern Africa, Europe and temperate Asia and naturalized elsewhere (USDA-ARS 2016Footnote 2).

Duration of Life Cycle


Seed or Fruit Type

Schizocarp, divided into 2 fruits

Identification Features


  • Fruit diameter: 1.0 - 2.5 mm


  • Fruit globose to oval with a highly visible hole on the ventral side

Surface Texture

  • The surface is covered in hooked bristles with non-tuberculate bases, fruits occasionally smooth


  • Fruit grey-brown with white bristles

Other Features

  • The hole on the ventral side of the fruit is typically a transverse oval

Habitat and Crop Association

Cultivated fields, forage seed crops, field borders, prairies, gardens, coastal areas, dry open woods, roadsides and waste grounds (Malik and Vanden Born 1988Footnote 1, Darbyshire 2003Footnote 3).

General Information

This species thrives in relatively dry and sunny habitats and is intolerant of shade; however, it is very rare on dry prairies that receive little rainfall. Seed dispersal occurs when contaminated straw and manure as well as used animal bedding is spread onto fields. Contaminated harvesting equipment may also disperse seeds along farm roads (Malik and Vanden Born 1988Footnote 1).

Similar Species

Cleavers (Galium aparine)

  • Cleavers' fruits have similar globose shape with a hole on the ventral side, grey-brown colour and white bristles.
  • Cleavers' fruits (diameter: 1.6 - 4.0 mm) tend to be larger than false cleavers, the bristles have tuberculate bases, and the ventral hole tends to be round and deep.


False cleavers (Galium spurium) fruits
False cleavers (Galium spurium) fruit
False cleavers (Galium spurium) fruit, close-up of surface
False cleavers (Galium spurium) fruit
False cleavers (Galium spurium) fruit
False cleavers (Galium spurium) fruit, cross-section

Similar species

Similar species: Cleavers (Galium aparine) fruits
Similar species: Cleavers (Galium aparine) fruit
Similar species: Cleavers (Galium aparine) fruit, close-up of surface
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