Lady's bedstraw

Traditional dye plant

Photo by Kaarina Heikkonen

Lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum) is a perennial field plant that enjoys sunny areas. It can grow to a height of 60 cm.

As is typical of field plants, Lady’s bedstraw has a long root with many branches, which helps it survive in dry areas such as shoulders of roads, rocky areas and sandy beaches.

Lady’s bedstraw has a narrow, yellow and fragrant inflorescences. It usually blooms in July, August and September. The top of the stem has some fine hairs. The plant’s leaves are needle-like in appearance, shiny on top and with fine hair underneath.

Lady’s bedstraw was once a common plant, but its preferred habitats have diminished. It also interbreeds with white bedstraw, which has white flowers. Therefore, it is today classified as an endangered species. The hybrid plants with light yellow flowers, Galium × pomeranicum, are called piennarmatara in Finnish, which loosely translates to road-side bedstraw. They are becoming more common and have been classified as an harmful invasive species.

Lady’s bedstraw is a traditional dye plant. Its flowers were used to dye wool yellow. In Finnish folk tradition, Lady’s bedstraw also goes by the name ‘corpse weed’, as the plants were often placed in coffins underneath the deceased.