Sticky Seeds From Weeds


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You will be surprised to know that there are many hitchhiking weeds that stick to your clothes. Here is a comprehensive list of them. Sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick to your clothes. It's an annual and easy removed. How to Get Rid of Sticky Willy. Sticky willy (Galium aparine) goes by many different, descriptive common names including bedstraw, catchweed, beggar’s lice, scratchweed and velcro plant. This annual plant is often an unwanted weed where it invades roadsides, home landscapes and vegetable or flower gardens, often …

9 Weeds That Stick To Your Clothes

Weeds are unwanted plants that are usually non-native. They spread across pretty quickly, often denying water and nutrient resources to the native plants.

Typically, there are multiple ways by which weeds spread— wind, water, and animals. They usually do so via seeds and spores.

If that was not enough, there are weeds that humans are guilty of spreading. These weeds stick or hook to our clothing, dirty tools, machinery, or pet animals, spreading far and wide.

The funny part is that we often aren’t aware of carrying them around. The weed seeds that stick to your clothes are commonly referred to as hitchhikers.

The other fun part is that they know how to hold good on our clothing, making them travel wide. Here is a list of the weed hitchhikers.

Table of Contents

Sticky Weeds That Love Hitchhiking

Weeds spread by people are not only challenging to contain but costly.

They fall into various categories ranging from herbaceous to woody plants. Let’s take a look at some of them

1. Palmer’s Grappling Hook (Harpagonella Palmeri)

Palmer’s grappling hook is a wild native plant found on sand slopes, especially in the desert regions of California, Arizona, and Baja -Mexico.

You will find it hard to notice because of its tiny nature. The weed has haired pods that stubbornly cling to your socks.

The plant grows 30cm tall. Its stems and leaves are herbaceous and erect but sometimes spreading. You will also notice hooked white hair covering the leaves and stems.

The leaves are generally lance-shaped with rolling edges. Palmer bears hairy green fruit from tiny white flowers that emerge from the leaf axils.

Your socks play a significant role in distributing the seeds of Palmer’s grappling hook to other places for future germination.

2. Hedge Parsley (Torilis arvensis)

Hedge Parsley is highly invasive and can survive in a range of growing conditions. It grows aggressively, producing bur-like seeds that stick to clothing.

The weed is a native to Southern Europe and has found a home in several parts of the US. Familiar places you will find the weed growing are the edges of forests, roadsides, and gardens.

The plant grows to a height of 61cm. Its flowers are small, white, and clustered with fern-like leaves, with narrow, rounded stems.

Hedge Parsley leaves and stems are also covered with tiny white hairs. Get rid of the weed by pulling it from your garden, or use a commercial herbicide.

You can also mow the weeds early before the seeds develop to suppress them. If you have livestock, allow the animals to graze them before flowering.

3. Common Burdock (Arctium minus)

Common burdock is the other weed that likes to catch a ride on people’s clothing spreading long distances. It’s a nuisance plant growing in pastures and degraded places in many parts of the US.

You should find it easy to identify because of its large dark green leaves that appear oval to triangular. The upper leaf surface is hairy, while the lower surface is pale green and wooly.

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Common burdock flowers are small and countless, coming in various colors, including purple, lavender, white, and pink.

The weeds are not only difficult to eradicate but also toxic. Some people experience allergic reactions when they come into contact with their skin.

Common Burdock can cause eye infections and skin problems in livestock. To prevent it from spreading, hand pull or dig it out of the soil.

You want to do mowing before bloom time to avoid spreading the seeds. Some herbicides recommended for control are glyphosate, 2,4-D, and picloram.

4. Beggarticks (Bidens pilosa)

Beggarticks in the aster family are annoying weeds that will wreak havoc on your garden. They are found across the entire United States particularly around disturbed places.

The plants snowball, crowding out native plants. It has dull green leaves that have sharp teeth at the edges. Their flowers are bright yellow and resemble daisies.

The stems are slender and leafy, growing up to 5 feet. Beggarticks have sticky fish-like seeds that will attach to anything, including your socks or your pets’ fur.

This is one of its adaptation methods to ensure it spreads far and wide— hooking itself on the host who carries it along with them.

Get rid of beggarticks from your garden through frequent mowing. You could also uproot them from moist soil. If they prove to be stubborn, use a herbicide to eradicate them.

5. Krameria (Krameria grayi)

The other hitchhiker you want to know about is the Krameria. It’s a purple-flowered shrub growing in the Colorado desert, Southeastern California.

The plant is drought resistant and low-growing, reaching a 0.6 -0.9m. The leaves are ovate and gray, blending in with the stems.

Krameria fruits resemble the miniature version of the legendary Uncarina of Madagascar. The fruits have radiating spines containing several barbs which appear like a tiny harpoon.

These barbs are spread across the upper part of each spine. The barbs or spines easily stick to unsuspecting hosts such as humans wearing loose apparel, moving along with them.

6. Beggar’s lice (Tick Trefoils), Desmodium

Beggar’s lice are next up on the list. The plant has several other names such as tick clover and the hitchhiker. It’s a flowering plant in the family Fabaceae.

It has several other species that gardeners and botanists find challenging to identify. Identification is based on a close analysis of their seed pods— some species are considered weeds.

The leaves are arranged in leaflets of three, giving it the name trefoils. Beggar’s lice grow to a height of more than 3 feet tall.

Their hairy seed pods stick to clothing and fur, giving it the name beggar’s lice.

Some of the plant species are used in agriculture to create livestock fodder, in Chinese Medicines, and to repel insects.

7. Enchanter’s-nightshade (Circaea lutetiana)

Enchanter’s nightshade belongs to the willowherb family. Apart from gardens, other places you are likely to find the plant are at the base of old walls, woodlands, and hedgerows.

Its leaves grow opposite each other, and are oval and rounded at the base. Their pink-white flowers are arranged in loose clusters and mostly appear between June and August.

Enchanter’s nightshade is problematic due to its persistent climbing habit. Most yard owners consider it a weed.

The surface of their fruits is covered in bristles that contain hooks. This makes them attach to clothing and animals for dispersal.

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8. Houndstongue Weed (Cynoglossum officinale)

Houndstongue weed does not only stick to your clothes, but is poisonous to your livestock as well. You don’t want to keep it around your garden for safety reasons.

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.

Preferred Habitat

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.

Weed Control

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.


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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.

Common Weeds

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

Creeping buttercup is a common perennial weed with low-lying foliage that forms mats. Its instantly recognisable glossy yellow flowers appear.

How to Get Rid of Sticky Willy

Perhaps best known as Sticky Willy, Galium aparine – USDA growing zones 3 to 7 – is an annual plant, largely considered to be a weed. With some basic steps, however, the savvy gardener can effectively remove it from his or her yard. Also known as Goosegrass, Coachweed, Catchweed and Cleavers, it can cause some serious problems for both gardeners and farmers.

Why Get Rid of Sticky Willy?

The sap of the plant can cause severe skin irritation in people who are sensitive to it. If left unchecked, the plant can also severely hinder other plants’ ability to grow. If left unchecked in agricultural operations, the plants can reduce crop yield in some species by between 30 and 60 percent.

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The seeds and foliage of Sticky Willy can contaminate the wool and fur of some livestock raised for the production of clothing. If animals consume it, it can inflame their digestive tracts. Its seeds can get stuck in the fur of animals and is very difficult to remove. It can also carry with it different diseases and pests.

Identifying Sticky Willy by Its Small Spines

Sticky Willy is quite easy to identify, thanks to the downward-pointing brown prickles on its leaves – which appear in groups of between six and eight – and stems. Its oblong-shaped eggs have slightly notched tips. Its seed leaves, or cotyledons, are smooth, however. If allowed to mature, Sticky Willy can grow to be 40 inches tall. Large groups of the plants often spread in dense mats over the ground, made all the more dense by their spines. Their flowers are four-parted and often white or greenish-white.

The weed can be found around the world. Most often, Sticky Willy grows in moist and shady areas such as areas filled with waste, on roadsides and in gardens. The species can also affect the growing of hay, rapeseed, sugar beets and various cereals.

Removing Sticky Willy Is Harder Than You Think

Getting rid of a Sticky Willy plant is easy enough; in fact, it’s just a matter of pulling it from the ground. However, each plant can have between 300 and 400 seeds, which spread readily and can lie dormant in soil for six years.

The best way to remove the plants for good is to get them out of the soil before the plants flower and develop their seeds — ideally in the early spring. This can be done using a hoe or another tool that gets to the roots, or by hand. As the plant’s sap is irritating, wearing gloves is an important step if you choose the latter option. If the plant has already flowered, attempting to remove it will only spread the seeds.

Applying a heavy layer of organic mulch or using plastic mulch can also prevent the seeds from reaching the soil or getting enough light to grow.

Gardeners looking to avoid Sticky Willy near their homes should be sure to brush down their clothing and pets after walking in areas where the weed is commonly found, or after exposure. Like most parts of the plant, the seeds are covered in tiny barbs that can stick to cloth or fur easily. The seeds spread easily, and even a few of the hardy seeds can cause an outbreak in a garden.

Chemical Solutions for Galium Aparine

Some herbicides have proven to be effective in removing the pesky plant. Contact herbicides containing acetic, fatty or pelargonic acids can scorch off Sticky Willy’s foliage, including its seed leaves. However, these can damage nearby plants, so covering desirable garden plants is recommended, at least until the chemicals dry on the weed foliage.

Glyphosate can be used in the same way, but it’s more important to ensure none of it gets on any other plants.

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