Galium triflorum (Fragrant Bedstraw)

Plant Info
Also known as: Sweet-scented Bedstraw
Family:Rubiaceae (Madder)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist woods
Bloom season:May - August
Plant height:6 to 30 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

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

[photo of flowers] Flowers are in clusters of 1 to 3 (usually 3); 1 to a few clusters arise from the leaf axils. Flowers are about 1/8 inch across with 4 greenish white petals sharply pointed at the tip, and 4 greenish white stamens. The Latin name triflorum refers to the clusters of 3 flowers, so is an aid in identification.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are whorled in groups of 6, rarely 5, ½ to 2½ inches long and up to ½ inch wide. The shape is slightly variable but leaves in a whorl are pretty consistently sized and shaped, elliptical or widest at the tip end, with an abrupt sharp point at the tip. Fine hairs are around the leaf edges and the midrib on the underside; leaf texture is smooth to slightly rough. Stems are square and sparsely hairy along the angles, also feel smooth to slightly rough. It grows sprawling along the ground or leaning on other plants, has few branches but typically several stems.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a pair of tiny, round pods covered in hooked hairs, each pod containing a seed.


There are multiple species of bedstraw with 4-petaled flowers and leaves whorled in 6s. Fragrant Bedstraw most closely resembles Rough Bedstraw (Galium asprellum) but the latter is extremely rough textured (sticks to everything!), much more heavily branched and clusters mostly with more than 3 flowers. Fragrant Bedstraw leaves are supposed to have a vanilla scent, especially when dried. It is found in woodlands of most MN counties.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Spangle Creek Labs - Native orchids, lab propagated
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Landscape Alternatives
  • ReWild Native Gardens
  • Out Back Nursery

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at various locations around MN.


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

Posted by: Ruth Anne - Cook County
on: 2011-07-25 17:43:29

This is so tiny in a damp area of Lake Superior forest that it could easily be missed. But its whorl of half-inch leaves is lovely. One of many reasons why one should keep one's eyes on the ground!

Posted by: Chris - blue earth county
on: 2015-09-11 19:54:25

I think this is the plant I've found but the leaves on mine are rounder and much smaller, maybe 3/8" wide x 1/2". Or is there a smaller variety?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-09-11 20:12:52

Chris, there are 12 Galium species in MN. Leaf sizes and sometimes shape can be rather variable, but number of leaflets in a whorl, whether any parts are bristly/hairy, and how the flowers are clustered will tell you which species it is.

Posted by: Chris - St. Paul
on: 2022-05-26 21:36:42

Several pockets in Lebanon regional park.

Posted by: Deb O'Connor - Minnetonka
on: 2024-06-10 09:47:11

I have identified this plant in a couple of my gardens by an iphone app. Would you recommend moving to the wooded area of our yard or just pulling? I think it would make a decent ground cover.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2024-06-10 16:57:43

Deb, assuming it's correctly IDed, woods would be its normal habitat.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the spammers out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.