Skip to main content

White bedstraw

(Galium mollugo)

Photo of white bedstraw
Photo credit: Ohio State Weed Lab Archive, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

An erect, vine-like herbaceous perennial growing to 4 feet tall. Plants have tiny white flowers and long, slender whorled leaves.

Overview

Other names for this plant include:
  • Common names: smooth bedstraw, false baby's-breath, wild madder
  • Scientific names: Galium erectum, Galium mollugo var. erectum
Ecological threat:
  • Invades grasslands, open woodlands, meadows, pastures, riverbanks, and disturbed areas such as roadside ditches.
  • Tolerates a wide variety of soil types, from silt and sand to dense red clays.
  • A competitor to both long-lived and short-lived forage crops. Quickly crowds out native and non-native crop plants.
  • It contains a toxin that causes toxicity in animals.
Overview map of white bedstraw classification in WI
Restricted (orange) counties

Classification in Wisconsin: Restricted

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for white bedstraw was based upon this literature review [PDF] developed by the department.

Identification

Leaves & stems: Upright and branching thin stems, becoming matted as they age. Leaves are light-green in color, with 6-8 leaves whorled on the stem. Lanceolate in shape and sessile (attaching to the stems without stalks).

Flowers: Small, whitish-green, 4-petaled flowers with 4 stamens and 2 styles. Branching inflorescence is a many-flowered panicle (cluster).

Fruits & seeds: Fruits are round and smooth. Each fruit contains two seeds, 1 mm in size, smooth and wrinkled.

Roots: Strong, deep taproot and shallow-rooted branching, woody rhizomes. The root system is reddish-orange in color and rhizomes are yellow-orange.

Similar species: White bedstraw resembles numerous other Galium spp. Most notably, white bedstraw is smooth while many other species are "sticky" to the touch due to barbed hairs.

Control

Mechanical:
  • Plants often reproduce vegetatively. Pull plants, being sure to remove rhizomes.
  • Seeds do not persist in the soil; therefore, control seed production by cutting or mowing.
  • Mowing alone will not kill the plants, but will stress the population, keeping it from producing seed and spreading further. Note that this plant can be spread by mowing if in the fruiting stage.
  • Infestations in fields could be tilled and then heavily seeded/planted with desired species.
  • Monitor for re-growth.
Chemical:
  • A combination of mechanical and herbicide treatments may be most effective. This plant has a high tolerance for some herbicides.
  • Apply Milestone or a triclopyr-based product to plants for the most effective control.
  • Dicamba is also an effective herbicide when applied in spring to summer.
  • Picloram is most effective when applied in autumn.
  • Multiple herbicide applications are needed for effective control.
  • Cut or mow the population and apply herbicide to 2-week old re-growth.

Photos

View pictures of white bedstraw in our photo gallery!

Resources

Sources for content:
  • D. Mersereau and A. DiTommaso. 2002. Department of Crop and Soil Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. “The biology of Canadian weeds. 121. Galium mollugo”
  • Wisconsin State Herbarium (WISFLORA) Department of Botany, University of Wisconsin - Madison
  • University of Maine - Cooperative Extension
  • Government of New Brunswick, Canada, Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries
Links for more information: