Three-petal Bedstraw (Galium trifidum)

Three-petal Bedstraw (Galium trifidum)

Three-petal Bedstraw (Galium trifidum); also known as the Three-clefted Bedstraw, Northern Three-lobed Bedstraw and Three-petaled Bedstraw; is a perennial forb/herb and vine 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 Latin for "split into three parts" referring to the three petals of the flower. The sample described on this page was found in the northern part of French Hill Pond near the shore. This plant is normally a terrestrial plant found in wet areas. The terrestrial plant can grow to twenty inches (50 centimeters) high. It resembles the monoecious form of Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata), an invasive plant in Maine, and can easily me mistaken for Hydrilla especially if this plant is found submerged. However, Hydrilla does not produce berries like those clearly seen in the photograph above and most of the leaves of the Three-petal Bedstraw have blunt tips and all lack the marginal barbs of Hydrilla.

The leaves of the Three-petal Bedstraw (Galium trifidum) are in whorls of four elliptical leaves with mostly blunt tips. Sometimes there may be fewer than four leaves to a whorl. Each leaf can be up to ¾ inch (2 centimeters) long and 1/8 inch (3 millimeters) wide. Like other plants in this genera, the leaves have small marginal hairs that are retrograde (point backwards) as seen in the microphotograph below. The marginal barbs of Hydrilla point forward.

Three-petal Bedstraw (Galium trifidum) Leaf Tip

The leaves have no petioles but their bases attach directly to the stem at nodes as shown in the microphotograph below. There are small hairs on the leaves and square stem. Many plants in this genera use these hairs to stick to other plants and for propagation by animals.

Three-petal Bedstraw Leaves Base

The next microphotograph shows the stomata on a leaf. The presence of these stomata in large numbers indicate that this plant prefers a more terrestrial than submerged environment. The weak stems of this plant may cause it to become submerged when it is too close to standing water. This plant always grows in wet areas increasing the chance that it nay become submerged.

Three-petal Bedstraw Stomata

The flower is white with three wide petals. Each flower is about 1/16 inch (1.5 millimeters) wide in clusters of one to three on a long stalk, greater than ¼ inch (6 millimeters), growing from a leaf axis. This plant flowers from June through August.

The fruit is a round, smooth, dry, berry-like pod up to 1/10 inch (2.5 millimeters) in diameter. The color will range from green to olive green. There are two fruits to a stalk.  See the microphotograph below.

Three-petal Bedstraw Fruit

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

 

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