Galium verum (lady's bedstraw or yellow bedstraw) is a herbaceous perennial plant of the family Rubiaceae. It is widespread across most of Europe, North Africa, and temperate Asia from Palestine and Israel, Lebanon and Turkey to Japan and Kamchatka. It is naturalized in Tasmania, New Zealand, Canada, and the northern half of the United States. It is considered a noxious weed in some places.
Galium verum is a low scrambling plant, with the stems growing to 60–120 centimetres (24–47 in) long, frequently rooting where they touch the ground. The leaves are 1–3 cm (0.39–1.18 in) long and 2 millimetres (0.079 in) broad, shiny dark green, hairy underneath, borne in whorls of 8–12. The flowers are 2–3 mm (0.079–0.118 in) in diameter, yellow, and produced in dense clusters. This species is sometimes confused with Galium odoratum, a species with traditional culinary uses.
In medieval Europe, the dried plants were used to stuff mattresses, as the coumarin scent of the plants acts as a flea repellant. The flowers were also used to coagulate milk in cheese manufacture (which gives the plant its name, from the greek word meaning "Milk" (Gala, γάλα) and, in Gloucestershire, to colour the cheese double Gloucester. The plant is also used to make red madder-like and yellow dyes. In Denmark, the plant (known locally as gul snerre) is traditionally used to infuse spirits, making the uniquely Danish drink bjæsk.
Frigg was the goddess of married women, in Norse mythology. She helped women give birth to children, and as Scandinavians used the plant lady's bedstraw (Galium verum) as a sedative, they called it Frigg's grass.
In Gaelic mythology, the hero Cú Chulainn, who suffered fits of rage during battle, would take a tea of this plant to calm his frenzy. The plant is known as lus chneas Chù-Chulainn 'the herb of Cú Chulainn's skin' in Scottish Gaelic, and in the 14th/15th centuries it occurred with the Irish name Bolad cneise con Culainn ‘the smell of Cú Chulainn’s skin’ (NLI G 11 182b2).
Many varietal and subspecific names have been proposed, but only four are currently (May 2014) recognized:
- Galium verum subsp. asiaticum (Nakai) T.Yamaz - China, Korea, Japan, Russian Far East (Primorye)
- Galium verum subsp. glabrescens Ehrend. - Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria
- Galium verum subsp. verum - most of species range
- Galium verum subsp. wirtgenii (F.W.Schultz) Oborny - Central and eastern Europe plus Western Siberia
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- Media related to Galium verum at Wikimedia Commons
- Line drawing from Flora of Pakistan
- Photo of herbarium specimen at University of Missouri, collected in Missouri, Galium verum
- Plants for a Future
- US Department of Agriculture plants profile
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- Wilde Planten in Nederland en Belgie, Geel walstro, Giel slyt, Lady's Bedstraw (Yellow Spring Bedstraw, Cheese Rennet, Fleaweed, Gallion, Ladys Bedstraw, Maidens Hair, Petty Mugget, Wirtgen's Bedstraw, Wirtgens Bedstraw), Gaillet jaune, Echtes Labkraut, Galium verum
- Altervista, Galium verum L. - Erba zolfina, Le piante e le erbe medicinali