Galium circaezans

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: licorice bedstraw 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Rubiaceae
Native Range: Central and eastern North America
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to July
Bloom Description: Light green
Sun: Part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil


Easily grown in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in part shade. Thrives in sun dappled part shade. Prefers organically rich loams. Spreads in the landscape by creeping rhizomes and/or self-seeding.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Galium circaezans, commonly called wild white licorice or forest bedstraw, is a somewhat weedy, herbaceous perennial or subshrub of the madder family that grows to 1-2’ tall and slowly spreads by creeping rhizomes. It is native to mesic to dry deciduous woodlands, wooded slopes, open forested areas, thickets, and limestone glades from Quebec, Ontario, Minnesota and Nebraska south to Texas and Florida.

This species is distinguished by (a) pubescent, lanceolate green leaves in whorls of 4, (b) tiny flowers that are sessile along the branches of each inflorescence, and (c) 3-4 greenish lobes on each flower.

Light green, square stems are clad with leaves in whorls of 4 at intervals along the length of each stem. Each lanceolate-ovate leaf (to 2.5” long) is medium green, sessile, sparsely pubescent, and has three prominent parallel veins. Flowers bloom from late May into July. Each flower (to 1/8” across) has a 4-lobed greenish-white to greenish-yellow corolla, a double-ovoid ovary, 4 stamens, and a pair of styles. At maturity, each ovary becomes a dry, spherical, reflexed, indehiscent, one-seeded fruit that is black or dark brown and covered with hooked bristles which, among other things, stick to human clothing and animal fur in a way that helps distribute the seeds to new locations.

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

Specific epithet means resembling the genus Circaea which is commonly known as enchanter’s nightshade and which was named after Circe of Greek mythology who reportedly used enchanter’s nightshade in her magic.

Common name of wild white licorice is in reference to the sweetly flavored roots of this plant.


No serious insect or disease problems. Somewhat weedy. Susceptible to downy mildew, powdery mildew and rust. Fungal leaf spots may appear.


Interesting plant for sunny naturalized areas, cottage gardens or slopes. May be a bit too weedy for borders.