Galium boreale (Northern Bedstraw)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Rubiaceae (Madder)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; open woods, woodland edges, fields, prairies
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Numerous flowers in branching clusters at the top of the stem and arising from the leaf axils in the upper plant. Individual flowers are 1/8 to ¼ inch across with 4 white petals pointed at the tip and 4 creamy-tipped stamens.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: whorl Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are whorled in groups of 4. Each leaf is ¾ to 2 inches long and about ¼ inch wide, toothless, gradually tapering to a blunt point at the tip. There are 3 distinct parallel veins, and fine hairs along the leaf edges. Stems are erect, smooth and square, branching in the upper plant.


There are several species of bedstraw growing in Minnesota, all with tiny white flowers (most with 4 petals) and whorled leaves. Distinguishing features are the number of leaves in a whorl, overall hairiness, and number and arrangement of flowers in a cluster. Northern Bedstraw is most easily identified by the whorls of 4 long, narrow leaves and its smooth stem. Northern Bedstraw is also the largest of the Galiums in Minnesota, the most common throughout the state, and the most prolific bloomer.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake and Vadnais/Snail Lake Regional Parks, Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Chris - Douglas County
on: 2015-07-07 20:27:12

"Prolific bloomer" is a characteristic I wanted to look for so I could i.d. some bedstraw, and you said it. It's very pretty this year. I'll have to check when next I'm near it, but I bet Northern Bedstraw is what I have.

Posted by: Kenny h - Mower county Shooting Star Trail
on: 2017-06-19 11:19:42

Northern Bedstraw can be found very easily in well drained areas of the Shooting Star Trail...very interesting past uses...stuffing pillows and mattresses...roasting seeds for coffee substitute.

Posted by: Sandra Sedivy - Mid-Otter Tail County
on: 2020-06-15 17:33:46

I saw this very close to the edge of a busy gravel road while walking in the early evening. Bedstraw must be really hardy as there's no shade, decent soil, or water source where it was growing.

Posted by: Betsy Eisenhauer - northern St Louis County
on: 2021-06-28 17:17:06

What I found is Northern Bedstraw. It is in a woody area along the side of the gravel road. Very pretty.

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