False Baby's Breath (Galium mollugo)

False Baby's Breath (Galium mollugo)

False Baby's Breath (Galium mollugo); also known as the White Bedstraw, Wild Madder, Baby's Breath, Smooth Bedstraw, Whorled Bedstraw and Hedge Bedstraw; is a perennial forb/herb in the Madder (Rubiaceae) family and Rubiales order. The order and family names come from the Latin word "ruber" that translates to "red." The roots of plants in the Madder family were used to extract red dyes in the ancient world. Pliny the Elder used the word "rubia" to name a species in this family and order, whence the family and order name. The genus name comes from the Greek word for milk, "gala" because some species in this genera were used to curdle milk. The species name is an old name for the genus. The sample described on this page was found on the northeastern shore of French Hill Pond. This plant is normally a terrestrial plant found in wet areas. The terrestrial plant can grow to about four feet (120 centimeters) high. It resembles the monoecious form of Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) at first glance, an invasive plant in Maine, and can easily me mistaken for Hydrilla especially if this plant is found submerged. However, Hydrilla does not produce flower clusters like those clearly seen in the photograph above and the leaves of the False Baby's Breath lack the marginal barbs of Hydrilla.

The leaves of the Three-petal Bedstraw (Galium trifidum) are in whorls of six to eight entire, long, oblong and somewhat lance-like leaves with mostly sharp tips. Each leaf can be up to 1.5 inches (3.7 centimeters) long and ¼ inch (7 millimeters) wide. Like other plants in this genera, the leaves may have small marginal hairs that are retrograde (point backwards). The marginal barbs of Hydrilla point forward.

False Baby's Breath (Galium mollugo) Leaves

The leaves have no petioles but their bases attach directly to the stem at nodes as shown in the microphotograph above. There are small hairs on the leaves and square stem as seen in the microphotograph below. Many plants in this genera use these hairs to stick to other plants and for propagation by animals. The stems do not support the plant well and will intertwine with other plants or objects for more support.

False Baby's Breath (Galium mollugo) Stem

The flower is white with four wide petals. Each flower is about 1/8 inch (3.0 millimeters) wide in clusters of one to three on a long stalk, greater than 1/8 inch (3.0 millimeters), growing from a leaf axis. This plant flowers from May through Sertember.

False Baby's Breath (Galium mollugo) Flower

The flowers grow in clusters as shown in the photograph below.

False Baby's Breath (Galium mollugo) Flower Clusters

The fruit is an egg-shaped, smooth, dry, berry-like pod up to ¼ inch (6 millimeters) long. 

The root system is a rhizome. This plant can also spread by stolon (the devices by which the plant can take root at stem nodes).

This plant, like others in this genus, will be the host to arachnids like mites and ticks. See the microphotograph below that shows an arachnid, likely a tick nymph, on the stem of the sample. The "bedstraw" common name refers to the use of this plant in bedding materials. The plant on the shore of French Hill Pond appeared to be infested with tick nymphs. Bedstraws used for bedding must be dried and cleaned of infestations before use.

False Baby's Breath (Galium mollugo) Stem Bug


Emergent Plants Technical Data and Information French Hill Pond Home