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 / Coffee Family (Rubiaceae)
    • Climbing perennial herb
    • Plant stems and leaves rough with tiny, hooked prickles
    • 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 (Picking or removing any natural material from public land is illegal)

        • 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.