2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Plants

Woodruff plant in flower
Woodruff plant in flower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Gentianales
Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Galium
Species: G. odoratum
Binomial name
Galium odoratum
(L.) Scop.
Detail of flowers
Detail of flowers

Woodruff (Galium odoratum) is a herbaceous perennial plant in the family Rubiaceae, native to Europe, western Asia and north Africa. It grows to 30-50 cm long, often lying flat on the ground or supported other plants. The plant is also known in English as Sweetscented bedstraw, Sweet Woodruff, Wild Baby's Breath, Cudweed (G. triflorum), Master of the woods (prob transliteration), and Ladies Bedstraw.

The leaves are simple, lanceolate, glabrous, 2-5 cm long, and borne in whorls of 6-9. The small (4-7 mm diameter) flowers are produced in cymes, each white with four petals joined together at the base. The seeds are 2-4 mm diameter, produced singly, and each seed is covered in tiny hooked bristles which help disperse the seed by sticking temporarily to clothing and animal fur.

This plant prefers partial to full shade in moist, rich soils. In dry summers it needs frequent irrigation. Propagation is by crown division, separation of the rooted stems, or digging up of the barely submerged perimeter stolons.


Woodruff – from Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885
Woodruff – from Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885

Woodruff, as the scientific name odoratum suggests, is a strongly scented plant, the sweet scent being derived from coumarin. This scent increases on wilting and then persists on drying, and woodruff is used in pot-pourri and as a moth deterrent. It is also used, mainly in Germany, to flavour wine ( Maiwein), beer ( Berliner Weisse), brandy, sausages and jam, and to make a herbal tea with gentle sedative properties.

High doses can cause headaches, and very high doses (far beyond those found in the afore-mentioned drinks) can even have mind-altering properties, as well as vertigo, somnolence or even central paralysis and apnoea while in a coma; so, some common sense should be applied when consuming woodruff. Three grams of woodruff per litre of Maiwein is considered safe in Germany.

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