Not to be confused with: Wood-Sorrel, Wood Horsetail, Wood Speedwell,
Wood Spurge, Wood Sage, Wood Dock, Wood Vetch, Wood Avens, Wood Anemone,
Wood Stitchwort, Wood Dog-violet,
Wood Burdock or Wood Forget-me-Not [plants with similar names].
Uniquely identifiable characteristics
Distinguishing Feature : Un-like all other members of the Bedstraw Family, this one has larger leaves with more in a whorl.
Occupies woods and hedgerows mainly in limestone areas.
Woodruff has probably the largest leaves in the Bedstraw family, thus is easily recognizable. It likes to grow in moist soil in shade or even deep shade. Hedgerows are a favourite spot.
Woodruff is used in some alcoholic drinks such as Maiwine, a white wine.
Woodruff smells sweet like new-mown hay and vanilla due to the presence of Coumarins, the smell becoming stronger after being picked for 2 hours on drying. Thus Woodruff is thus used as a pot-pourri, and in herbal tea, but consumption should be limited due to the toxicity of coumarins. Very high doses cause vertigo, somnolence, and coma within sleep apnoea.
Woodruff also contains seven toxic iridoid glucosides in the aerial parts of the plant, the sugar molecule in all cases being
Glucose (abbreviation: Glc). Amongst them
Asperuloside which is related to Aucubin, and is present in many plants belonging to the Bedstraw Family such as Cleavers and
Dyer's Madder and also in the totally un-related species Yellow Bird's-Nest (Monotropa hypopitys), a saprophyte.
Aucubin, another monoterpenoid-based iridoid glycoside, is found not only in many plants belonging to the Bedstraw Family, but was also first found in the leaves of Spotted Laurel Aucuba Japonica, a popular garden plant which also grows wild. Aucubin was found to offer protection from liver damage caused by carbon tetrachloride (CCl4.
Iridoids consist of a
pyran ring fused with a
cyclopentane ring. Another iridoid glycoside present is
Asperulosidic Acid, which is the pre-cursor of
Asperuloside. By the loss of a molecule of water, H2O, Asperulosidic Acid becomes Asperuloside (above). Glc is an abbreviation for the monosaccharide
Monotropein is the iridoid upon which Asperuloside and Asperulosidic Acid are based. This compound contributes to the anti-inflammatory action of Woodruff. Glc is an abbreviation for the monosaccharide
Betulalbuside A is a
monoterpene glycoside also present in Woodruff.
A FLAVONOL GLYCOSIDE
Astragalin is one of the flavonol glycosides based upon the flavonol Kaempferol, as is Rutin which is also present in Woodruff. It appears to derive its name from the Monotropaceae Family, or Bird's-nest Family, which are
saprophytes. Taxonomists have recently subsumed the Monotropaceae Family into the Heather Family.