Galium verum

Bedstraw Family [Rubiaceae]  

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31st July 2011, Moses Gate Country Park, Gtr m/cr. Photo: © RWD
Inhabiting dry grassland.

Photo: © RWD
Spreads widely in suitable habitats such as dry grasslands, especially if they are on lime. Grows up to 1m high, but usually only half that height.

11th July, Cumbria Coastal Way, Cark. Photo: © RWD
The fuzziness of the yellow flowers resemble those of the garden variety of Lady's-Mantle (but the leaves are totally different.

6th July 2005, Tyldesley Loop Lines, Walkden, Manchester. Photo: © RWD
A fuzzy frothy foam of yellow flowers, reminiscent of the frothiness of those of Meadowsweet

7th July 2006, Winder, Howgill Fells, Sedburgh, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD

10th Aug 2012, Tideswell, White Peaks, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD

19th Aug 2009, King William Hill, Breton, Derbys. Photo: © RWD
Bright yellow 4-petalled flowers with four at first yellow but turning brown stamens.

6th July 2005, Tyldesley Loop Lines, Walkden, Manchester. Photo: © RWD
Unopened flowers are spherical yellow blobs. The stems are square.

1st July 2014, above Hartington, White Peaks, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
The petals are cross-shaped, straight sided, narrow and with 45° mitred ends. The stamens are yellow and inhabit the spaces between the petals. Pollen is concolorous with the petals.

15th July, King William Hill, Breton, Derbys. Photo: © RWD
The narrow linear leaves are in whorls of (nominally) six but up to 8-12. Each terminates with a minute spike. The stems and upper leaf surfaces have very short downy hairs.

Hybridizes with: Hedge Bedstraw (Galium album) to produce Galium × pomeranicum

There is a common variation of Lady's Bedstraw sometimes called Galium verum ssp. maritimum which grows on cliff tops and maritime sand dunes.

Some similarities to : Crosswort, another member of the bedstraw family but which has only pale yellow flowers and its stems have a cross-section in the shape of 4-semi-circles, and with much wider leaves in whorls of only four rather than eight or so of Lady's Bedstraw.

Habitat: likes dry grassland, especially on lime.


The roots of this plant yield a red to pink dye, whereas the stems and tops yield a yellow dye. The dyes involved are Alizarin, Purpurin, Xanthopurpurin, and Pseudopurpurin, all of which are anthraquinoid dyes. All four here are also found in the roots of Madder, which belongs to the same Bedstraw Family.

Alizarin, aka 1,2-dihydroxyanthraquinone, is an important red dye which is found in the roots of the Madder plant. There are many artificial derivatives of Alizarin used commercially as dyes. It is used in the manufacture of other dyes such as Rose madder (which contains Alizarin and Purpurin) and Alizarin crimson.

Purpurin, a reddish dye, also occurs in the root of the Madder plant, although it appears to form during storage.

Xanthopurpurin, aka 1,3-Dihydroxanthaquinone, is another reddish dye. Like many similar dyes, it has a purgative effect if ingested. There are 10 structural isomers of Xanthopurpurin, not necessarily all naturally occurring. Its name suggests it is coloured both yellow and purple, which for a subtractive dye, would make it a near-black! However, it does not exhibit both colours at the same time, but is instead yellow in acidic baths and red surrounded by alkaline solution.

Pseudopurpurin is a monocarboxyl derivative of purpurin, and is also present in Madder to a greater or lesser extent, depending upon the amount of lime in the soil, the more lime, the less pseudopurpurin.

Rubiadin, a naturally occurring dihydroxy quinone found within Lady's Bedstraw, is a potent anti-oxidant and is hepatoprotective, helping prevent deterioration of the liver. It crystallizes as slender yellow plates and is a yellow dye.

Although Lucidin is also a hydroxy quinone that is found within this plant, it is possible that it is colourless, hence the root 'lucid' within the name.

All of these naturally occurring dyes will probably occur within the plant as their glycosides. If consumed, they possess laxative and diuretic effects.


When crushed, Lady's Bedstraw smells of new-mown hay due to the presence of coumarin, a benzopyrone, which is also present in the non-native Bison-grass (sometimes known as Buffalo grass) a single blade of which is put into a bottle of Dubrowka, a Polish Vodka, where it acts as a flavouring agent. The flowers themselves, like those of Crosswort, smell of honey. It is used in perfume.

Coumarin is present in a number of plants belonging to the Bedstraw family including Woodruff. It is also present in Sweet Grass, Cinnamon and Lavender. A number of pharmaceuticals based upon dimers of coumarin are used as anti-coagulants in the bloodstream; agents such as Warfarin and Phenprocoumon. Because of their ability to prevent blood clotting, they have been used as rat poisons where the vermin die from continual internal bleeding. Because of this propensity for internal bleeding in those taking the drug, it has to be prescribed with great care.

A related compound to Coumarin called Coumarin-3-Carboxylic Acid is used as a light-sensitizer in Xerographic copying of documents. The dimers of another related compound, 4-hydroxy coumarin are used as blood anti-coagulants, such as Warfarin and DiCoumarol. Dicoumarol occurs as a fermentation product of rotting Sweet Clover by the action of a mycotoxin.

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Galium verum

Bedstraw Family [Rubiaceae]  

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