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Limestone Bedstraw

Galium sterneri

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Rubiaceae (Bedstraw)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
20 centimetres tall
Grassland, rocky places.

White, 4 petals
The flowers of Limestone Bedstraw are small and delicate, appearing in clusters known as cymes at the ends of its stems. Each flower is star-shaped, with slender white petals that radiate outward from a central point. They possess a subtle, sweet fragrance, enticing pollinators like bees to visit. These blooms are modest yet intricate, adding a touch of brightness against the rocky, often rugged backdrop of their limestone habitats.
The fruit of Limestone Bedstraw (Galium sterneri) consists of small, round, greenish-brown drupelets that develop after the flowers have been pollinated. These drupelets are clustered together in groups, forming small, spherical structures known as drupes. Each drupe contains a single seed. As they mature, the drupes may turn darker in color, ranging from brown to blackish, providing a contrast to the plant's delicate white flowers.
The leaves of Limestone Bedstraw are narrow and arranged in whorls along the stems, typically in groups of four to six. They are small, elongated, and pointed, with a smooth texture and a dark green color. The edges of the leaves are smooth or slightly toothed, contributing to their slender appearance. These whorled leaves give the plant a distinctive, organized structure, adapting well to the rocky limestone environments where it thrives.
The aroma of Limestone Bedstraw flowers is subtle yet distinctive, characterized by a delicate sweetness that is pleasantly floral. When in bloom, especially on warm days, the fragrance can be detected as a gentle, inviting scent that attracts pollinators such as bees. It adds a subtle fragrance to the air in its limestone habitat, contributing to the overall sensory experience of encountering this small, resilient plant.
Other Names:
Razor Grass, Sterner's Bedstraw.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Galium sterneri, also known as Sterner's bedstraw or razor grass, is a species of flowering plant that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a member of the madder family and is known for its small, white flowers and narrow, pointed leaves. Galium sterneri is an annual or biennial plant that grows up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) tall and has a thin, upright stem. The leaves are linear in shape and are a bright green color, with a distinctive, sharp point at the end. The plant produces small, white flowers that are shaped like a star and are arranged in clusters. Galium sterneri is found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, meadows, and along roadsides. It is a popular garden plant and is known for its medicinal properties, with the plant being used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments.

Limestone Bedstraw: An Overview

Limestone bedstraw (Galium sterneri) is a plant species native to the limestone cliffs and hillsides of Central Europe. This herbaceous perennial plant is part of the Rubiaceae family and is known for its delicate, bright yellow flowers that bloom from June to August. The plant can grow up to 20cm in height and is a valuable species for wildlife and biodiversity, as it provides a food source for pollinators and other insects.

Unique Characteristics

One of the unique characteristics of Limestone bedstraw is its leaves, which are arranged in whorls of six to eight and are covered in fine hairs. The leaves are also edible and have a slightly bitter taste, which makes them a good addition to salads or as a garnish. Additionally, the plant has a low-growing habit, which makes it an excellent choice for rock gardens, borders, and naturalistic planting schemes.

Growing Limestone Bedstraw

Limestone bedstraw is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of soils, including alkaline and rocky soils. However, it prefers well-drained soils and is best grown in a sunny to partially shaded location. The plant can be propagated by division in spring or by seed, which should be sown in a cold frame in the autumn or winter.

Benefits for Wildlife

In addition to providing a food source for pollinators and other insects, Limestone bedstraw is also beneficial for wildlife in other ways. The plant provides a habitat for small mammals, reptiles, and birds, and it also has the ability to stabilize soil on steep slopes and prevent erosion.

Cultural Significance

In addition to its ecological benefits, Limestone bedstraw also has cultural significance. Historically, the plant was used for medicinal purposes, as it was believed to have properties that could help with various ailments, such as skin conditions and digestive problems. In folklore, the plant was also used in love spells, as it was thought to have the power to bring couples together.

Conservation Status

Despite its many benefits, Limestone bedstraw is considered a vulnerable species, as its natural habitats are threatened by human activities such as construction and land development. In addition, the plant is also threatened by the effects of climate change, which is altering the conditions of its native habitats. Conservation efforts are underway to protect Limestone bedstraw and its habitats, and it is important for individuals to play their part by planting the species in their gardens and supporting conservation initiatives.

Gardening with Limestone Bedstraw

Limestone bedstraw is an excellent choice for gardeners who are looking for a hardy and low-maintenance plant that is easy to grow. The plant is versatile and can be used in a variety of gardening styles, including rock gardens, borders, and naturalistic planting schemes. Limestone bedstraw can be grown in a range of soils, including alkaline and rocky soils, and it prefers a sunny to partially shaded location.

Maintenance and Care

Limestone bedstraw is a low-maintenance plant that requires minimal care. However, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure the health and vitality of the plant.

Watering: Limestone bedstraw is drought-tolerant and does not require frequent watering. However, during prolonged periods of drought, the plant may benefit from supplemental watering.

Pruning: Limestone bedstraw does not require regular pruning. However, after the flowers have faded, the plant may be cut back to encourage new growth.

Fertilizing: Limestone bedstraw does not require regular fertilizing. However, if the plant is growing in poor soil, a balanced fertilizer can be applied in the spring to encourage growth.

Pests and Diseases: Limestone bedstraw is relatively disease-free and pest-resistant. However, it may be susceptible to fungal diseases if grown in poorly-drained soils. To prevent fungal diseases, ensure that the soil is well-drained and avoid overwatering.

Growing Limestone bedstraw in Containers

Limestone bedstraw can also be grown in containers, making it an excellent choice for gardeners with limited space. When growing the plant in a container, it is important to choose a container that is large enough to accommodate the plant's root system, and to use a well-draining potting mix. It is also important to provide the plant with adequate light and to water it regularly, making sure not to overwater.


Limestone bedstraw is a valuable species that provides ecological, cultural, and aesthetic benefits. Whether grown in a garden, on a slope, or in a container, this hardy and low-maintenance plant is easy to grow and requires minimal care. So why not consider adding Limestone bedstraw to your garden today?

30 Facts About Limestone Bedstraw

Limestone Bedstraw (Galium sterneri) is a fascinating plant, especially if you're interested in its ecological niche and botanical characteristics. Here are 30 intriguing facts about it:

  1. Botanical Classification: Galium sterneri belongs to the Rubiaceae family, which includes coffee and gardenias.

  2. Endemic Nature: It is endemic to limestone areas in Europe, particularly found in Slovenia and Croatia.

  3. Habitat: Typically grows in crevices of limestone rocks and cliffs, preferring dry and rocky environments.

  4. Appearance: It is a low-growing perennial herb with small, narrow leaves arranged in whorls along its stems.

  5. Flowers: The flowers are small, white, and star-shaped, clustered together in terminal cymes.

  6. Blooming Period: Limestone Bedstraw blooms from late spring to early summer.

  7. Pollination: Like many plants in the Rubiaceae family, it is primarily pollinated by insects, particularly bees.

  8. Fragrance: The flowers have a subtle, sweet fragrance, which is characteristic of many Galium species.

  9. Medicinal Uses: Traditionally, some Galium species have been used in herbal medicine for their diuretic and tonic properties, though specific uses for G. sterneri are less documented.

  10. Conservation Status: It may be locally rare due to its specific habitat requirements and limited distribution.

  11. Adaptations to Limestone: Its ability to thrive in limestone environments is due to adaptations that help it tolerate alkaline soils and rocky substrates.

  12. Cultural Significance: In local folklore or traditions, plants like Galium sterneri might have symbolic or medicinal roles.

  13. Propagation: It reproduces primarily by seed, but can also spread vegetatively via creeping stems (stolons).

  14. Herbaceous Growth: Unlike woody plants, Galium sterneri is herbaceous, meaning it dies back to the ground each year.

  15. Rocky Slopes: It prefers slopes and rocky outcrops where water drains quickly, preventing the roots from sitting in waterlogged soil.

  16. Limestone Features: The plant benefits from the calcium-rich environment of limestone, which may enhance its growth and resilience.

  17. Climate Adaptation: It is adapted to the Mediterranean climate, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters.

  18. Seed Dispersal: Seeds are often dispersed by wind or small mammals, aiding in its colonization of new limestone areas.

  19. Genetic Diversity: Populations of Galium sterneri may show genetic diversity due to isolated habitats and limited gene flow between populations.

  20. Microhabitat Variability: Within its range, it may occupy slightly different microhabitats depending on factors like exposure to sunlight and soil moisture.

  21. Mycorrhizal Associations: Like many plants, it likely forms symbiotic relationships with fungi (mycorrhizae) to aid in nutrient uptake.

  22. Competitive Interactions: It competes with other plants adapted to limestone environments, which can influence its distribution.

  23. Vegetative Structure: The plant's whorled leaves and branching pattern contribute to its ability to capture sunlight efficiently.

  24. Insect Interactions: Besides pollinators, the plant may host specific insect species that depend on it for habitat or food.

  25. Seed Bank: Seeds can remain viable in the soil for several years, allowing for periodic regeneration in disturbed areas.

  26. Growth Strategies: It may exhibit strategies like drought tolerance or dormancy to survive harsh environmental conditions.

  27. Leaf Morphology: The narrow leaves help reduce water loss (transpiration) in the dry limestone environment.

  28. Ecological Role: It plays a role in stabilizing soil on limestone cliffs and preventing erosion.

  29. Conservation Efforts: Conservationists may monitor populations of Galium sterneri to ensure their survival and protect their habitats.

  30. Research Importance: Study of Galium sterneri contributes to understanding plant evolution, adaptation to unique habitats, and conservation biology.

These facts highlight the ecological, botanical, and cultural aspects of Limestone Bedstraw (Galium sterneri), underscoring its importance in its native limestone habitats.


Limestone Bedstraw filmed at the following places:
  • Scout Scar, Cumbria: 26th May 2023
  • Hutton Roof, Cumbria: 28th May 2023 and the 1st June 2024
  • Gait Barrows Nature Reserve, Lancashire: 31st May 2023

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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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