This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flowers - Small, white, 4-parted, inconspicuous, in clusters of 1 to 3 on peduncles from the axils of upper leaves. Stem: 2 to 5 ft. long, scrambling, weak, square; bristly on the angles. Leaves: In whorls of 6 or 8, narrow, midrib and edges very rough. Fruit: Rounded, twin seed-vessels, beset with many hooked bristles.
Preferred Habitat - Shady ground.
Flowering Season - May - September.
Distribution - Eastern half of United States and Canada.
Among some seventy other English folk names by which cleavers are known are the following, taken from Britton and Brown's "Illustrated Flora": "Catchweed, Beggar-lice, Burhead, Clover-grass, Cling-rascal, Scratch-grass, Wild Hedge-burs, Hairif or Airif, Stick-a-back or Stickle-back, Gosling-grass or Gosling-weed, Turkey-grass, Pigtail, Grip or Grip-grass, Loveman, Sweethearts." From these it will be seen that the insignificant little white flowers impress not the popular mind. But the twin burs which steal a ride on every passing animal, whether man or beast, in the hope of reaching new colonizing ground far from the parent plant, rarely fail to make an impression on one who has to pick trailing sprays beset with them off woollen clothing.
Several other similar bur-bearing relatives there are, common in various parts of America as they are in Europe. The Sweet-scented Bedstraw (G. trifolium), always with three little greenish flowers at the end of a footstalk, or branched into three pedicels that are one to three flowered, and with narrowly oval, one-nerved leaves arranged in whorls of six on its square stem, ranges from ocean to ocean on this continent, over northern Europe, and in Asia from Japan to the Himalayas. It will be noticed that plants depending upon the by hook or by crook method of travel are among the best of globe trotters. This species becomes increasingly fragrant as it dries.