Lady's bedstraw Galium verum

Status Green - Least concern
Best Time to See June, July, August, September
Colour Yellow
Habitat Grassland

'O perilous fyr, that in the bedstraw bredeth' - Chaucer, "The Merchant's Tale"

Also known as 'yellow bedstraw', a frothy blossom with a wonderful honey scent.

Regular listeners of The Archers may be interested to know that it was voted the County Flower of Borsetshire following a poll by Plantlife in 2002.

It is related to the plant cleavers, or 'Sticky Willy' Galium aparine.

A very distinctive plant with soft clusters of bright yellow flowers that smell of hay. The leaves are narrow, dark green and in whorls. It often creeps amongst grasses, sending up tall flowering stems in summer.

Distribution

Lady's bedstraw can be found growing across the UK.

Habitat

Meadows, road verges, cliff tops, hedges, dunes and other grassy places.

Best time to see

In the summer months, when in bloom and producing its scent.

Did you know?

  • Before the advent of the modern mattress, lady's bedstraw was a popular choice for bedding thanks to its soft and springy quality and pleasant scent (when dried it smells of hay). Also it has an astringent quality which may also have brought it into the bed against fleas. According to one medieval legend, the Virgin Mary Herself gave birth whilst lying on a bed of lady's bedstraw and bracken. The bracken refused to acknowledge the baby Jesus and in doing so lost its flower. Lady's bedstraw, however, bloomed in recognition. As it did so its flowers changed from white to gold.
  • The flower also has an association with giving birth in Norse mythology. In the past Scandinavians used lady's bedstraw as a sedative for women in labour. Frigg, the goddess of married women, was said to help women give birth. As such they called it 'Frigg's grass'.
  • Its flowers were also used as an alternative to renin to coagulate milk in cheese production (sadly, the exact method of how this was done have been lost). Additionally, in Gloucestershire, it was used to add colour to Double Gloucester.