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Yellow bedstraw

Galium verum  • 

Photo: Yellow bedstraw

General description

Galium verum (lady's bedstraw[1] or yellow bedstraw) is a herbaceous perennial plant of the family Rubiaceae. It is widespread across most of Europe, North Africa, and temperate Asia from Palestine and Turkey to Japan and Kamchatka. It is naturalized in Tasmania, New Zealand, Canada, and the northern half of the United States. It is considered a noxious weed in some places.[2][3][4]

Galium verum is a low scrambling plant, with the stems growing to 60–120 centimetres (24–47 in) long, frequently rooting where they touch the ground. The leaves are 1–3 cm (0.39–1.18 in) long and 2 millimetres (0.079 in) broad, shiny dark green, hairy underneath, borne in whorls of 8–12. The flowers are 2–3 mm (0.079–0.118 in) in diameter, yellow, and produced in dense clusters. This species is sometimes confused with Galium odoratum, a species with traditional culinary uses.[5]​

Practical use

In the past, the dried plants were used to stuff mattresses, as the coumarin scent of the plants acts as a flea killer. The flowers were also used to coagulate milk in cheese manufacture and, in Gloucestershire, to colour the cheese double Gloucester.[6] The plant is also used to make red madder-like and yellow dyes. In Denmark, the plant (known locally as gul snerre) is traditionally used to infuse spirits, making the uniquely Danish drink bjæsk.

Mythology

Frigg was the goddess of married women, in Norse mythology. She helped women give birth to children, and as Scandinavians used the plant lady's bedstraw (Galium verum) as a sedative, they called it Frigg's grass.[7]

In Romanian folklore, it is called sânziana and it is linked to the Sânziene fairies and their festival on June 24.

Subspecies

Many varietal and subspecific names have been proposed, but only four are currently (May 2014) recognized:[2]

Galium verum subsp. asiaticum (Nakai) T.Yamaz - China, Korea, Japan, Russian Far East (Primorye)

Galium verum subsp. glabrescens Ehrend. - Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria

Galium verum subsp. verum - most of species range

Galium verum subsp. wirtgenii (F.W.Schultz) Oborny - Central and eastern Europe plus Western Siberia

Properties

Height
1 cm
Color
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