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
    • Variety indicates a population with small morphological variations, e.g. color, seen throughout the geographic range of the species; interbreeding is possible
    • Subspecies indicates a geographically-separated population with distinct morphological characteristics; when not isolated, interbreeding is possible
    • In practice, botanists have not consistently applied these ranks

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. 2013, Jul. 1. Bedstraw is a weed that bites back. Tribune Chronicle. Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

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