Climbing Bedstraw

Climbing Bedstraw © TCorelli

Graceful Bedstraw
Galium porrigens var. porrigens

Description (Jepson,

  • Eudicotyledon
    • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
  • Madder Family (Rubiaceae)
  • Climbing perennial herb
  • Plant stems and leaves rough with tiny, hooked prickles (extensions of the epidermis)
  • Stems
    • Lower stems are woody
    • Upper stems create a tangled mass
    • Square when young (true of all Galium species)
  • Leaves in whorls of 4, red- or purple-tipped
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) in clusters or singly from the leaf axil (branching point)
    • Male and female flowers on separate plants (dioecious)
      • Male flowers in clusters
      • Female flowers usually solitary
    • Tiny, 4-petaled, yellow-green flower
    • Ovary inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is a white berry (a usually multi-seeded fruit with a fleshy ovary wall), turning black with age
  • Climbs to 5 ft.


  • Native to California
    • Grows in chaparral, shrublands, and forests
    • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • Outside California, grows from southern Oregon to northern Baja California, Mexico
  • Grows at elevations to 7,000 ft.

Uses (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)

  • Dried plants of some Galium species were used to stuff mattresses, hence the name bedstraw

Name Derivation

  • Galium (GAY-lee-um) – from the Greek for “milk” because some species, e.g. Galium verum, were used to curdle milk for making cheese (Charter 2015); shepherds would also use matted European Galium clumps to strain curds (Evanoff 2013)
  • porrigens (POR-i-jens) – from the Latin porrigo/porriginus, “dandruff” or “scurf,” indicating scaliness, or porrigo/porrectus, “to stretch out” or “put forth”


  • Hooked prickles on stems and leaves cling to passing animals (including humans), aiding in seed dispersal
    • Galium prickles may have been an inspiration for Velcro (Breckling 2008)
  • Sale of Galium seed is prohibited or restricted in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont (Gucker 2005); see notes on goose grass
  • Edgewood’s climbing bedstraw is classified as a variety
    • Subspecies rank is used to recognize geographic distinctiveness, whereas variety rank is appropriate for variants seen throughout the geographic range of the species; in practice, these two ranks are not distinct

ID Tips

  • May be confused with goose grass (G. aparine)
    • Climbing bedstraw grows in tangled clumps of long stems, with small leaves in whorls of 4
    • Goose grass at Edgewood is single-stemmed, with larger leaves in whorls of 6-8

At Edgewood

  • Found climbing on shrubs in woodlands, chaparral, and scrub
  • Flowers March – August

See General References

Specific References

Evanoff, K. Bedstraw is a Weed That Bites Back.
Tribune Chronicle
, 1 July 2013.

Gucker, C.L. 2005. Galium aparine. Fire Effects Information System. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.