Galium boreale

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: northern bedstraw 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Rubiaceae
Native Range: North America, Europe, Asia
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: June to July
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy


Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in part shade. Prefers moist soils where it will often spread by creeping roots and self-seeding. Avoid heavy, poorly-drained soils.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Although Steyermark reports that Galium boreale subsp. septentrionale is native to Missouri in several very limited areas of the Ozark region (certain limestone ledges and bluffs in Texas and Shannon Counties), the straight species is not found in the State but is common across Canada and the northern U.S. Northern bedstraw is a somewhat weedy perennial that grows on upright, smooth stems to 1-3' tall and features tiny white flowers that appear in branched terminal and upper axillary clusters in late spring to early summer. Narrow leaves (to 2" long and 1/2" wide) appear along the stems in whorls of four. Although the flowers of this plant earn it consideration for a place in the landscape, northern bedstraw may be difficult to find in commerce because few nurseries other than native plant specialists seem to sell it. A more common Missouri plant which also goes by the name of bedstraw is Galium aparine which is a sprawling annual weed featuring weak bristly stems and seeds, both of which commonly stick to clothing.

Genus name comes from the Greek word gala meaning milk. G. vernus can be used to curdle milk for making cheese.

Specific epithet means northern.


No serious insect or disease problems. Somewhat weedy.


Can be useful in shady areas of woodland or shade gardens, naturalized areas or cottage gardens. May be a bit too weedy for borders.