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Sweet Woodruff

Galium odoratum

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Rubiaceae (Bedstraw)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
45 centimetres tall
Bogs, fields, gardens, hedgerows, meadows, scrub, wasteland, wetland, woodland.

White, 4 petals
Flowers in clusters. 4 tiny white lobed petals.
The fruit is globular and covered in hooked bristles, up to 4mm in diameter. They are borne solitary. The bristles help them to be dispersed as they cling on to clothing and animal fur as they pass by.
Carpet-forming. The leaves are in whorls of 6 to 8.
Flowers are weakly aromatic.
Other Names:
Hay Plant, Herb Walter, Herb Walter, Kiss-me-quick, Lady's Needlework, Lady's-in-the-hay, Madder, Mugwet, Our Lady's Bedstraw, Our Lady's Lace, Sweet Grass, Sweet White Woodruff, Sweet-scented Bedstraw, Wild Baby's Breath, Wood Rove, Woodward.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Galium odoratum, commonly known as sweet woodruff or wild baby's breath, is a species of perennial herb in the Rubiaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, typically found in damp, shady areas such as woods and bogs. It has small, white, star-shaped flowers that bloom in the spring and summer and glossy, dark green leaves. The plant is known for its sweet fragrance, especially when dried and it is used as a herb or to make tea. The dried plants are used in potpourri, perfumes, and as a flavoring for liqueurs and other beverages. It is also used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, but there is not enough scientific evidence to support its medicinal properties. It is also used as an ornamental plant in gardens and as a ground cover.


Sweet Woodruff, also known as Galium odoratum, is a delicate and fragrant herb that is widely used for its ornamental and culinary purposes. This plant belongs to the Rubiaceae family and is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa.

Sweet Woodruff has a low-growing habit and produces delicate white or yellow flowers in the spring. The leaves are lance-shaped and arranged in a whorl around the stem. The plant is often used as a groundcover in shady gardens and woodland areas, as it thrives in partial shade and damp soils.

One of the most notable features of Sweet Woodruff is its sweet fragrance. The plant releases a delicate and pleasant aroma when dried, making it a popular ingredient in potpourri and perfumes. The plant’s fragrant leaves are also used to flavour syrups, liqueurs, and cordials, particularly in German cuisine.

In traditional medicine, Sweet Woodruff has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive problems, anxiety, and insomnia. However, it is important to note that the plant contains coumarin, which can be toxic in large quantities. As a result, it should be used in moderation and only under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Sweet Woodruff is a versatile and fragrant plant that can add a touch of beauty and fragrance to any garden. Whether grown for its ornamental value or used for culinary or medicinal purposes, this herb is a valuable addition to any plant collection.

In addition to its ornamental and culinary uses, Sweet Woodruff has also been used in traditional festivals and celebrations. In Germany, the plant is often used to decorate Maypole celebrations and is considered a symbol of spring and new beginnings.

When grown in the garden, Sweet Woodruff is a low-maintenance plant that requires little care. It should be planted in well-drained soil in partial shade, and the soil should be kept moist but not waterlogged. Pruning the plant after flowering will encourage bushier growth and keep the plant looking its best.

Despite its delicate appearance, Sweet Woodruff is a hardy plant that can withstand cold temperatures and drought. It is also deer and rabbit resistant, making it a great choice for gardeners in areas with these pests.

In recent years, Sweet Woodruff has become increasingly popular as a groundcover in landscaping and garden design. Its fragrant leaves and delicate flowers make it a beautiful addition to any garden, and its low-growing habit makes it an excellent choice for filling in gaps between other plants or for use as a border.

Sweet Woodruff is a versatile, fragrant, and low-maintenance plant that has a range of uses and benefits. Whether grown in the garden, used in traditional celebrations, or added to culinary creations, this herb is sure to bring a touch of beauty and fragrance to any setting.

It is important to note that while Sweet Woodruff is a beautiful and versatile plant, it can also be invasive in some areas. This is especially true in regions where the plant is not native and where it is not kept in check by natural predators. If you are considering planting Sweet Woodruff in your garden, it is a good idea to research the plant’s natural growth habits and to take appropriate measures to prevent it from spreading too quickly.

If you are growing Sweet Woodruff for culinary or medicinal purposes, it is important to source the plant from a reputable source to ensure that it is safe for consumption. Some sources of Sweet Woodruff may have been treated with pesticides or other chemicals, which can make the plant toxic.

Another important consideration when growing Sweet Woodruff is that the plant contains coumarin, which can be toxic in large quantities. As a result, it is important to use caution when using the plant for medicinal purposes, and to seek the advice of a healthcare professional before consuming large amounts of the plant.

In conclusion, Sweet Woodruff is a beautiful and versatile plant that can be a valuable addition to any garden. However, it is important to research the plant’s natural growth habits, to source it from a reputable source, and to use caution when using it for medicinal purposes. With proper care and consideration, Sweet Woodruff can bring beauty, fragrance, and versatility to your garden for years to come.


Sweet Woodruff filmed at Parbold, Lancashire on the 6th May 2023:


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