Catchweed Bedstraw: The Sticky Weed

Catchweed is easily identified once you know the telling characteristics. It goes by many other names such as cleavers, bedstraw, stickywilly, and velcro plant. As these names suggest, it's sticky! It can be found almost anywhere but prefers moist, shady spots. It is mostly found in disturbed areas such as waste piles, ditches, and roadsides. Although, we have seen this weed in many lawns in middle Tennessee.


Photo credit: Dave's Garden

What does catchweed bedstraw look like?

Catchweed bedstraw tends to grow along the ground creating a dense tangled mat over whatever vegetation it surrounds. Walk through a patch of catchweed, and it will stick to you and your clothes. Why? The small leaves, which are generally 1/2 to one inch long, are spiral and have downward-curved prickles that cover the stems and leaves. The prickles are responsible for the sticky nature of this plant and aid in seed disbursement. The stems can grow up to 6 feet long! The flowers can also aid in identifying catchweed. They are small, four-parted, and are either white or greenish-white.

How can you prevent catchweed bedstraw?

Like many other weeds, catchweed bedstraw can be both a winter annual and a summer annual, which means year-round control is necessary. Seeds that are up to three inches deep in loose soil have been known to germinate and sprout, so this weed is hearty and will definitely compete for nutrients and water. Be sure you are practicing great lawn maintenance to ensure the healthiest turf so grass will win the battle! Pre-emergent treatments are effective, but they must be applied in spring and fall.

How to you get rid of catchweed bedstraw?

Post-emergent treatments will do the trick. If pulling by hand, make sure to wear gloves when handling this weed. You'll be sticky and covered in it if you're not careful.

Overview

Type: Broadleaf
Appearance: The seed leaves are oblong to egg-shaped with slightly notched tips, lack hairs, and range in size from 1/2 to one inch. Mature catchweed has stems up to 6 ft long and form dense and tangled mats over vegetation. Flowers are small and greenish-white on short branches.
Life cycle: Winter annual, but it can be a summer annual as well.
Where it grows: It can grow along roadsides, disturbed areas, lawns, vegetable gardens, ditches, etc.
Reproduce by: Seed
How to prevent: A pre-emergent is recommended, but remember to spray in late fall and spring.
How to remove: Pull by hand or apply a post-emergent. It's best to wear gloves as this plant is sticky and difficult to handle.

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