We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Galium odoratum - (L.)Scop.

Common Name Sweet Woodruff, Sweetscented bedstraw, Bedstraw
Family Rubiaceae
USDA hardiness 5-9
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Woodland and shady areas[4, 14] on damp calcareous and base rich soils[17]. Often found in beech woods[268].
Range Northern and central Europe, including Britain, south and east to N. Africa and Siberia.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade
Galium odoratum Sweet Woodruff, Sweetscented bedstraw, Bedstraw

Galium odoratum Sweet Woodruff, Sweetscented bedstraw, Bedstraw


Translate this page:


Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early summer, Late spring. Form: Spreading or horizontal.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Galium odoratum is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to July, and the seeds ripen from July to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Flies, bees. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers dry or moist soil. It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Asperula odorata.

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; not Deep Shade; Ground Cover;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves
Edible Uses: Condiment  Drink  Tea

Leaves - raw or cooked[62]. The leaves are coumarin-scented (like freshly mown hay), they are used as a flavouring in cooling drinks[2, 9, 27] and are also added to fruit salads etc[183, 200]. The leaves are soaked in white wine to make 'Maitrank', an aromatic tonic drink that is made in Alsace[238]. A fragrant and delicious tea is made from the green-dried leaves and flowers[2, 183, 268]. Slightly wilted leaves are used, the tea has a fresh, grassy flavour[200]. The sweet-scented flowers are eaten or used as a garnish[183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antispasmodic  Cardiac  Diaphoretic  Diuretic  Homeopathy  Sedative

Sweet woodruff was widely used in herbal medicine during the Middle Ages, gaining a reputation as an external application to wounds and cuts and also taken internally in the treatment of digestive and liver problems[4]. In current day herbalism it is valued mainly for its tonic, diuretic and anti-inflammatory affect[254]. The leaves are antispasmodic, cardiac, diaphoretic, diuretic, sedative[9, 13, 21, 200]. An infusion is used in the treatment of insomnia and nervous tension, varicose veins, biliary obstruction, hepatitis and jaundice[9, 238]. The plant is harvested just before or as it comes into flower and can be dried for later use[9]. One report says that it should be used with caution[21] whilst another says that it is entirely safe[9]. Excessive doses can produce dizziness and symptoms of poisoning[268]. The dried plant contains coumarins and these act to prevent the clotting of blood - though in excessive doses it can cause internal bleeding[254]. The plant is grown commercially as a source of coumarin, used to make an anticoagulant drug[268]. Do not use this remedy if you are taking conventional medicine for circulatory problems or if you are pregnant[254]. Both Asperuloside (a terpenoid) and Coumarin (a benzopyrone) occur in some species of Galium. Asperuloside can be converted into prostaglandins (hormone-like compounds that stimulate the uterus and affect blood vessels), making the genus of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry[238]. A homeopathic remedy made from the plant is used in the treatment of inflammation of the uterus[238].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses

Dye  Pot-pourri  Repellent  Strewing

A red dye is obtained from the root[168]. Soft-tan and grey-green dyes are obtained from the stems and leaves[168]. A good ground-cover plant for growing on woodland edges or in the cool shade of shrubs[24, 200]. It spreads rapidly at the roots[28, 197, 208]. It is an ideal carpeting plant for bulbs to grow through[K]. Although the fresh plant has very little aroma, as it dries it becomes very aromatic with the scent of newly-mown grass and then retains this aroma for years[2, 200]. It is used in the linen cupboard to protect from moths etc.[4, 14] It was also formerly used as a strewing herb and is an ingredient of pot-pourri[238]. It was also hung up in bunches in the home in order to keep the rooms cool and fragrant during the summertime[245].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Ground cover  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Ground cover, Massing, Rock garden, Woodland garden. Prefers a loose moist leafy soil in some shade[200]. Tolerates dry soils but the leaves quickly become scorched when growing in full sun[200]. This species does not thrive in a hot climate[200]. Prefers a moist calcareous soil[9, 13, 14]. Dislikes very acid soils[187]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.3 to 8.3. This species is very tolerant of atmospheric pollution and grows well in towns[208]. A very cold-hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to about -25°c[187]. Sweet woodruff is occasionally cultivated in the herb garden for its medicinal and other uses. The dried foliage has the sweet scent of newly mown hay[245]. A very ornamental plant[1] but it spreads rapidly[28] and can be invasive[200]. However, this is rarely to the detriment of other plants since these are normally able to grow through it[200]. It does no harm to any plants more than 60cm tall[208]. Special Features: Attractive foliage, Edible, Fragrant foliage, Not North American native, Naturalizing, Suitable for dried flowers, Fragrant flowers. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 8 through 5. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is rhizomatous with underground stems sending roots and shoots along their length [2-1].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown in situ as soon as it is ripe in late summer[200]. The seed can also be sown in spring though it may be very slow to germinate[200]. A period of cold stratification helps reduce the germination time. Lots of leafmold in the soil and the shade of trees also improves germination rates. Division in spring. The plant can also be successfully divided throughout the growing season if the divisions are kept moist until they are established[200]. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring. Cuttings of soft wood, after flowering, in a frame.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

TEMPERATE ASIA: Altay, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ciscaucasia, Dagestan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Russian Federation, Russian Federation-Ciscaucasia,Turkey. EUROPE: Denmark, Finland, United Kingdom (U.K.), Norway, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Russian Federation-European part, European part, Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine (incl. Krym), Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Italy (incl. Sicily), Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, France (incl. Corsica),

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Galium aparineGoosegrass, Coachweed, Catchweed, StickywillyAnnual1.2 3-7  LMHFSNDM233
Galium borealeNorthern BedstrawPerennial0.5 0-0  LMHSDM222
Galium gracile Perennial0.2 0-0  LMHSDM121
Galium mollugoHedge Bedstraw, False baby's breathPerennial1.2 3-7 MLMHSDM123
Galium spuriumFalse CleaversAnnual0.8 0-0  LMHSDM121
Galium tinctoriumThreepetal BedstrawPerennial0.0 0-0  LMHSNM011
Galium triflorumFragrant BedstrawPerennial0.6 0-0  LMHSDM122
Galium verumLady's Bedstraw, Yellow Spring bedstraw, Wirtgen's bedstrawPerennial0.6 3-7  LMHSNDM322

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment



Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

Ihsan Ali   Tue Mar 28 2006

my friend (Syed Abdul Khaliq Jan,Depott of Chemistry University of Peshawar Pakistan.)had phytochemical worked on this species,he had isolated various chemical compounds from it . his E-mail:[email protected]

miles irving   Mon Aug 7 2006

Coumarin breaks down to form dicoumarin in the presence of certain moulds, which can afflict the plant materila during drying if it gets damp. Di coumarin is an anti coagulant which leads to death by bleeding even from small cuts.

abdul khaliq jan   Tue Aug 29 2006

Respected sir/Madam, i have completed most of the studies on the given species,i will send all the required impormation on demand,if needed.Hope u appretiate, my e-mail;[email protected] phone.+92-0300-5856017

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Galium odoratum  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.