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Lady's bedstraw. Flowers

Courtesy of Phil Sellens {Sussex-England} originally posted to Flickr. CC BY-2.0 Generic License. Uploaded to Commons by Josve05a

Lady's Bedstraw, Galium verum

Lady's bedstraw , belongs to the Madder family Rubiaceae, placed in the genus Galium and given the species name of verum.

The common name of this plant derives from its former use,even by the affluent ladies, for stuffing mattresses and pillows. Another theory is that it was  the plant that strewn on the floor of the stable on which the Virgin Mary gave birth. from this belief it was thought that the plant was a good herb to attain a safe and easy childbirth.

It is a plant that is encountered on dry banks,particularly near the sea.  It is widespread across most of Europe, North Africa and the temperate regions of Asia. It has been introduced to other countries and naturalized in the United States of America. It requires a dry soil and a sunny aspect.

Lady'd bedstraw growing with other dune flora. 

Courtesy of Mike Pennington {geograph.org.uk} CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic License

Description of Lady's bedstraw.

This species produces wiry,square upright or sprawling stems,which may be one to three feet in length,and almost thread-like foliage produced in whorls which number six to eight unstalked leaves in each whorl. other plants with leaves arranged in whorls in this family include other bedstraws, Cleavers and Sweet Woodruff, most of these other species produce white flowers.

The flowers of this species which occur in July and August,sometimes into September, are small and bright yellow,clustered together in dense panicles at the tops of the stems. It is quite similar to the related Crosswort, which has similar flowers,however , the leaves are broader and have three veins.Each flower has four well separated petals and the panicles are very fragrant when dried.  The extensive root system seems to find enough water even in times of drought.

Crosswort is a superficially similar plant,but the four leaves are broader,and as the common name suggest are arranged in the form of a cross

This image is in the Public domain , courtesy of Roger Griffith.  Taken in Scotland.

Medicinal and other uses of Lady's bedstraw.

Because of it being used in the curdling of milk it attained the country name of Cheese Rennet and in the sixteenth century  Cheese renning. Gerard in the that century  quoted " The people of Thuscanne do use it to turne their milks and cheese which they make of sheepes and goates milke, so might be the sweeter and more pleasant to taste" Indeed the scientific name of Galium derives from the Greek Gala meaning milk. 

It has traditionally been utilized in herbal medicine, but is of little use in these more modern times. Its employment in herbal preparations these days is as an application to skin ailments. A powder from the dried plant is sometimes used to treat reddened skin and to reduce inflammation.

The flowering tops were distilled in water to make a refreshing beverage. The dried plant produces a somewhat similar aroma to that of freshly mown hay,and apart from the previously mentioned use of stuffing mattresses they were strewn on the floor of houses in former times,it was  also said to keep fleas away.

The root was used to obtain a dye, the colour of red coral, but it is tricky and a fiddly process to achieve. Plants placed in hot water in the bath produces a herbal foot soak,ease your feet into the bath water when the water temperature is suitable. It is also good for relieving water retention,especially in swollen ankles.

The edible parts of the plant are the leaves which may be eaten raw or cooked. In common with Cleavers the dried fruits {seed pods} may be roasted and ground and used as a substitute for coffee. This article is designed to give an historical view of the medicinal and culinary uses of this species. never take anything internally unless you can positively identify the plant. Then only take a little at first to test your body tolerance of the drug.

Lady's bedstaw and biodiversity.

Lady's bedstraw is the food plant of the Hummingbird hawk moth, it also attracts a diverse range of butterflies and other insects.

The RSPB, states that unimproved hay meadows which supports a rich mixture of grasses and flowers such as the Lady's bedstraw, are especially good for birds, both as a source of food and for the purposes of nesting for species such as Skylark. However, the cutting regime has to be timed right to gain maximum benefit for the plants , insects and birds. 

Lady's bedstraw Habitat

Courtesy of Le Loup Gris.   CC.BY-SA 3.0 License.

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Cleavers/Goosegrass, {Galium aparine.}.

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