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Northern Bedstraw

Galium borale

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Rubiaceae (Bedstraw)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
50 centimetres tall
Grassland, meadows, mountains, riversides, rocky places, sand dunes, waterside, woodland.

White, 4 petals
Numerous small white flowers in branched, dense leafy clusters. Each flower is about 3mm in diameter. Flowers are pointed at the tip. The 4 stamens are creamy white. 2 styles. Pollinated by flies and beetles.
A brown, 2-sectioned fruit with hooked hairs.
The leaves are stalkless, dark green and with rough edges. They appear in whorls of 4 up the stem. Each opposite pair of leaves are of differing lengths. This is the only white bedstraw in Great Britain with 3-veined leaves. Each leaf measures up to 2 inches (5cm) long and 0.25 inches wide. The erect, hairless stems have smooth, square stems. Perennial.
Other Names:
Northern Wild Licorice.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Galium boreale, also known as northern bedstraw or northern wild licorice, is a species of flowering plant in the family Rubiaceae. It is native to North America and can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, fields, and along roadsides. The plant has slender stems with small, green leaves and clusters of small, white flowers. It is sometimes used in herbal medicine, although more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness.


Northern Bedstraw (Galium borale) is a wildflower native to North America and Europe. It is a member of the Rubiaceae family, which also includes coffee and gardenia.

Appearance: Northern Bedstraw has delicate white or yellow flowers that grow in clusters, and its leaves are arranged in a spiral fashion around its stem. The leaves are oval or lance-shaped and have a rough texture. The plant grows up to 30 cm in height.

Habitat: Northern Bedstraw is commonly found in meadows, along roadsides, and in disturbed areas. It prefers well-drained soils and grows well in full sun or partial shade.

Uses: Northern Bedstraw has several uses, both as a traditional remedy and in modern times. It has been used to treat skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, and has also been used as a diuretic and a mild sedative. In modern times, the plant is often used in landscaping and as a ground cover, due to its attractive foliage and delicate flowers.

Cultivation: Northern Bedstraw is easy to cultivate and grows well from seed. It is a hardy plant that can withstand harsh weather conditions and requires little maintenance.

Conclusion: Northern Bedstraw is a versatile and attractive wildflower that is worth considering for your garden. Its delicate flowers and attractive foliage make it a great addition to any landscape, and its numerous traditional uses make it a valuable addition to your herb garden.

In addition to its ornamental and medicinal uses, Northern Bedstraw has a few other interesting uses and characteristics.

Wildlife: Northern Bedstraw provides a habitat and food source for a variety of wildlife, including butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. The plant's leaves and stems are also a source of food for livestock, such as cattle and sheep.

Historical Uses: Northern Bedstraw has a long history of use by humans, both as a traditional remedy and in household items. In the past, the plant's stems were used to stuff mattresses and as a source of insulation, due to its soft and fluffy texture. The plant's stems were also used as a natural yellow dye for textiles.

Toxicity: Northern Bedstraw is not toxic to humans or animals, but it can cause skin irritation in some individuals. If you have sensitive skin, it is best to handle the plant with gloves.

In conclusion, Northern Bedstraw is a versatile and interesting wildflower that is worth considering for your garden or landscaping needs. Its delicate flowers, attractive foliage, and numerous uses make it a valuable addition to any garden.

Additionally, there are some ecological benefits associated with growing Northern Bedstraw.

Soil Conservation: Northern Bedstraw is a great option for erosion control, as its extensive root system helps to stabilize the soil. This makes it a great option for planting on slopes or along streams, where erosion is a concern.

Weed Control: Northern Bedstraw has the ability to compete with other invasive species, such as weeds, making it a valuable addition to any native plant garden. It also helps to maintain biodiversity and promote a healthy ecosystem.

Invasive Species: Although Northern Bedstraw is native to North America and Europe, it can become invasive in some areas. It is important to monitor its growth and keep it from spreading into natural areas. If necessary, it can be controlled by pulling or cutting the plant at the base.

In conclusion, Northern Bedstraw is not only a valuable ornamental and medicinal plant, but it also has several ecological benefits. Its ability to stabilize soil, compete with invasive species, and provide a habitat for wildlife make it a valuable addition to any native plant garden.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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