Woodruff – Galium odoratum


Bedstraw growing amidst (Spanish) bluebells

Leaves and stem

Like goosegrass, aka cleavers, it has ‘square stems’ (that is square in cross section). The leaves are arranged around the stem in whorls. There are six to eight leaves in each whorl. The leaves are dark green (when mature) and slightly shiny. Individual leaves are about 4 cm long (when fully expanded) and pointed with some ‘prickles’ on the leaf margin (edge) but this plant is not nearly as prickly / sticky as cleavers. When bruised or crushed, the leaves emit a scent like that of vanilla or fresh hay.

Flowers and fruits

The flowers are white, with four petals (in a star-like configuration). Each flower has four protruding (cream coloured) stamens. The fruits that form are 'bristly'

Ecology and other notes

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, also known as cleavers. Unlike, cleavers, it is a perennial that spreads and may form a ‘carpet’ or dense patches on the woodland floor.