Galium mollugo (False Baby's Breath)

Plant Info
Also known as: Smooth Bedstraw, Hedge Bedstraw, Whorled Bedstraw
Family:Rubiaceae (Madder)
Life cycle:perennial
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed soil; roadsides, waste areas, woodland edges
Bloom season:June - September
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: none MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flower clusters] Branching clusters of numerous, stalked flowers along the upper stem and sometimes arising from the uppermost leaf axils. Often at the base of cluster stalks and branches is a pair of leaf-like bracts.

[photo of flowers] Flowers are less than ¼ inch across with 4 creamy to greenish white, egg-shaped petals with blunt or pointed tips. In the center are 4 yellow-tipped stamens that turn blackish with age, and a 2-parted style. Flower stalks are typically widely spreading from each other (divaricate), more obvious in fruit.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: whorl Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves whorled in 8s] Leaves are whorled in groups of 6 or 8, each 3/8 to 1 inch long and 1/8 to about ¼ inch wide, oblong-elliptic or widest above the middle, with an abrupt sharp point at the tip. Leaves are hairless, smooth, and toothless but rough along the edges. Leaves in a whorl are pretty consistently sized and shaped though not always evenly spaced around the stem. Stems are square, stout, smooth, multiple from the base, sometimes erect to ascending but more often sprawling along the ground and rising at the tip (decumbent), and unbranched except in the flower clusters.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is smooth, about 1mm long that turns yellowish as it matures, with an obvious seam up the middle and splits into 2 seeds when ripe.


This is a relative newcomer to Minnesota; going by the distribution map it was probably introduced through the Port of Duluth as many weeds are. It is more widespread in the northeastern US and into Canada and has been noted as an agricultural pest, particularly with its ability to crowd out forage crops where it takes hold. It is likely under-reported in the state and is one to watch. The various Galium species are mostly distinguished by a combination of characteristics: number of leaflets in a whorl, leaflet shape, and whether leaves, stems and/or fruits are smooth or covered in hooked hairs. This one is easy to distinguish by the typically sprawling habit, overall hairlessness, leaves in 6s or 8s, and numerous clusters of numerous flowers. The only other Galium with a similar volume of flowers is Northern Bedstraw (Galium boreale), which is typically a taller, more erect plant with leaves whorled in 4s. While several other Galium species have sprawling growth, the number of leaflets and whether they have any hairs on leaves, stems and/or fruit make each distinct from False Baby's Breath even when it is not profusely flowering.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at French River, St. Louis County, and a private garden in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook, Ramsey and St. Louis counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Chris - Rice County
on: 2016-07-10 19:20:11

Heavily wooded area.

Posted by: Ian Shackleford
on: 2024-05-25 13:37:41

I see Michigan Flora and Flora of Wisconsin say they have Galium album, but G. mollugo. Both are good species and both are apparently introduced in North America, according to Plants of the World Online.

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