This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Found in the Neolithic deposits in Renfrewshire, Marsh Bedstraw is distributed to-day throughout the North Temperate and Arctic Zones in Arctic Europe, N. Africa, Siberia, Persia, Greenland. Water Bedstraw also occurs in every part of Great Britain, ascending to about 2000 ft. in Northumberland.
This Bedstraw is a typical hygrophyte, occurring in all damp hollows or areas where moist conditions are perennial. It is a familiar sight to see it encircling the margin of a pond. It is also widely spread in marshes, in ditches, by river-sides, and by the lake-side, indeed wherever water is present, usually in the reed swamp.
A feature of Marsh Bedstraw not noticed in the Heath Bedstraw is the downwardly placed bristles of the stem. The stems are spreading, tall, erect, fairly stout, but weak, and associating in clusters for support. The stems are angular, the leaves in a whorl are 4-6, oblong-lance-shaped, or inversely egg-shaped, unequal, blunt, with a slender midrib. Usually the lower whorls have six leaves, the upper four. They are shining and short.
The flowers are handsome, white, in large cymes, exceeding the leaves, or in rather loose and spreading panicles. The cymes are borne in the axils as well as terminally. The fruit is small, smooth, and globular, and when ripe the fruit-stalks are turned back or at right angles to the stem.
1 The hairs are either long and spreading or glandular.
The height varies from 1 to 2 ft. Flowers are found in July and August. The plant is perennial, being a deciduous, herbaceous plant, which is multiplied by division.
The flowers are honeyed, proterandrous, white, conspicuous, and numerous, and grow in the open, rearing their heads above the aquatic herbage; and being scented they are attractive to insects, which are able to cross - pollinate them. Insects may frequently carry pollen to the stigma with their feet. The stamens and pistil are close together. The capsules are smooth and break off at the fruit-stalks to fall around the parent plant.
This handsome Bed-straw is a semi-aquatic and a peat-loving plant, growing in moist peaty soil, or in the silt of ditches in which much vegetable matter is distributed. If examined carefully it will often be found to be infested with a little fungus, Puccinia galii, one of the cluster-cups. The same beetle, moths, and fly that seek out the Heath Bedstraw as a food plant feed on this one.
The second Latin name refers to its habitat, a marsh. The Bedstraws have been used for curdling milk. Essential Specific Characters:141. Galium palustre, L. - Stem loose, straggly, rough, with re-flexed prickles, leaves 6-8 in a whorl, linear-lanceolate, with bristle point, rough margins, flowers in loose panicle, fruit-stalks at right angles, fruit smooth.
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Marsh Bedstraw (Galium Palustre, L.)