Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Gentianales - Family: Rubiaceae
Most other bedstraws have white flowers, so this yellow wildflower is very distinctive. The tiny four-petalled flowers are borne in frothy inflorescences at the tips of shoots, while the strap-like elongated oval leaves, 10 to 30mm long but only about 2mm across, are borne in whorls of 8 to 12 around the stems; they are dark green, smooth above but finely hairy on their undersides. Lady's Bedstraw can reach a height of a metre and occasionally more, but mostly the plants are much lower growing, typically between 10 and 30cm tall.
Lady's Bedstraw is a scrambling perennial with four-petalled yellow flowers typically just 4mm across.
Galium verum is common throughout Britain and Ireland and occurs in mainland Europe, including Slovenia, and in North Africa and Asia.
Lady's Bedstraw often occurs in dry habitats, and so sand dunes are a good place to see it; however, we have also seen this plant beside wet flushes on coastal cliffs. This plant is also found in dry grasslands away from the coast.
In Britain and Ireland the peak flowering period of Galium verum is July and August. (The flowers smell like honey when they are in full bloom and more like fresh hay when dried.)
This flower got its name from a use informer times: it was dried and used for making bedding. Another of its uses was in cheesemaking, where the flowers were added instead of renin to make the milk curdle.
Lady's bedstraw is an important source of food for caterpillars of the Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth.
Galium, the genus name, comes from the Greek noun gala, meaning milk. It is a reference to the former use of flowers of various Galium species to help make milk coagulate during the process of making cheese. The specific epithet verum means true.
The photographs on this page were taken in Wales in July.
We hope that you have found this information helpful. If so we are sure you would find our books Wonderful Wildflowers of Wales, vols 1 to 4, by Sue Parker and Pat O'Reilly very useful too. Buy copies here...