Northern Bedstraw

Galium boreale – Historically, this plant was boiled and used as a wash to remove freckles!

Other Names
  • in Latin: Galium boreale
  • in English: northern bedstraw
  • in French: gaillet, gaillet boreale


Madder Family (Rubiaceae)


Northern bedstraw, a common herb, stands 20 cm to 60 cm tall, has square stems, and grows in clumps.

  • Leaves: Leaves are bright green, 2.5 cm to 5 cm long, and are arranged in whorls of 4, with each whorl encircling the stem (all leaves in the whorl are attached at the same height around the stem).
  • Flowers: Fragrant flowers are white, 3 mm wide, have 4 petals and are shaped like a cross.
  • Fruit: Pairs of tiny, round nutlets covered with short, white hairs.


Widespread throughout Alberta.


Northern bedstraw grows in forests, along roadsides, and in moist prairies.

How to Observe

  1. If the plants are very abundant, mark a plot about one metre by one metre in size.
  2. Record these dates:
  • First bloom: When the first flowers are open in the patch observed.
  • Mid bloom: When approximately half (50%) of the flowers on the plants under observation are open.

When does this plant bloom?

Flowers in late June.

Did you know …

Cut flowers were heated and applied to relieve sore feet and muscles. A red dye made from the roots was used to colour porcupine quills for embroidery.

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