Woodruff – Galium odoratum

Leaves and Stem

whorl woodruff

Like goosegrass, it has ‘square stems’ (square in cross section), and the leaves are arranged in around it in whorls.   There are six to eight leaves in each whorl.  The leaves are dark green and are slightly shiny.
Individual leaves are about 4 cm long (when mature) and pointed with fine ‘prickles’ on the leaf margin (edge).  The prickles may also be seen on the central / main vein on the underside of the leaves (see image below).

The leaves are hairless as is the stem (except for some beneath each whorl).

prickles woodruff

When bruised or crushed, the leaves emit a scent like that of vanilla or fresh hay.

hairs woodruff

Flowers and Fruits

woodruff flowers

The flowers are small (about 3 to 4 mm across), arranged in clusters and white.  There are four petals (in a star-like configuration) to each flower, and four protruding (cream coloured) stamens.


When pollinated and fertilised, the fruits that form are bristly.

woodruff flower

Ecology and other notes

clump of woodruff

Woodruff or Galium odoratum is found in woodlands and shady hedges. It is sometimes associated with ancient woodland and damp soils.

It belongs to the bedstraw family (the Rubiaceae)- see goosegrass.

It is a perennial that spreads and may form a ‘carpet’ or dense patches on the woodland floor.