1. Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile, L.). 2. Cat's Foot (Antennaria dioica, Gaertn.). 3. Common Hawkweed (Hieracium vulgatum, Fr.). 4. Sheep's Bit Scabious (Jasione montana, L.). 5. Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia, L.). 6. Whortleberry (Vaccinium Myrtillus, L.).

1. Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile, L.). 2. Cat's Foot (Antennaria dioica, Gaertn.). 3. Common Hawkweed (Hieracium vulgatum, Fr.). 4. Sheep's Bit Scabious (Jasione montana, L.). 5. Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia, L.). 6. Whortleberry (Vaccinium Myrtillus, L.).

Heath Bedstraw is a plant which is more or less confined to open heaths and moors, or high ground of a rocky, stony character, being a typical moorland plant. It is associated with Grassy Stitchwort, Tormentil, Harebell, Whortleberry, various Heaths, Ling, Red Rattle, Cow-wheat, and other heath and moor plants.

Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile, L.)

Photo Flatters & Garnett - Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile, L.)

Unlike most of the Bedstraws, which are more or less erect, climbing up stronger stems in the hedgerow, this species is usually prostrate, and covers the ground in a matted manner. The stems grow in tufts, but are short and weak. They are quite smooth, and angular. The leaves are whorled, 4 6, inversely egg-shaped, acute, blunt with a sharp point, rough at the margin, with prickles directed forward, flat, with a slender midrib.

The flowers, which are white, numerous, and closely associated, are in a cyme, and rather small. The petals are acute. The fruit is granular, not stiffly hairy, and the flower-stalks are erect to spreading. When dried the plant turns black, unlike the Rough Marsh Bedstraw, which retains its colour when dried, and has bristles at the angles of the stem turned back. The plant is 6 in. high at most. It flowers freely from April to September. Heath Bedstraw is a deciduous, herbaceous perennial increasing by division.

The flowers, though small, are white and conspicuous, growing in a compact cyme, and contain honey, which is not concealed. There are 4 stamens and 2 short styles close together. The stigmas are capitate. Being sweet-scented and growing in the open, the plant is accessible to insects, and liable to be cross-pollinated.

The fruit is rough, and adapted to dispersal by animals, clinging to the wool of sheep.

This Bedstraw is a humus-loving plant to some extent, growing on heaths where there is humus, or on rocks where, though the rock soil is stony, humus has collected.

On its leaves one may find a diminutive fungus, Aecidium valantioe. Beetles such as Meligethes coracinus, Timiarcha tenebricosa, T. violaceo-nigra, Sermyle helensis; Lepidoptera such as Beech Green Carpet (Larentia olivata), Satyr Pug (Eupithecia satyrata), Small Argent and Sable (Melanippe tristata), Wood Carpet (M. rivata), M. biriviata, Royal Mantle (Auticlea sinuata), Eubolia, Lygris, etc.; a Homopteron, Trioza galii; and the Heteroptera Poecilocytus gyllenhelii, P. nigritus, P. unifasciatus, and the Hymenopterous insect Halictus luteicollis feed upon Bedstraws generally.

Galium, Dioscorides, is from the Greek gala, milk, referring to the property of coagulating milk characteristic of another species; and the second Latin name refers to its habitat, rocky places.

This species is also called Lady's Bedstraw, Our Lady's Bedstraw, a name which refers to the habit of using dried plants as bedding, and is associated with the Blessed Virgin from her having given birth to our Saviour in a stable.

Heath Bedstraw was said to induce love. It was reputed to have filled the manger in which the infant Jesus was laid.

Essential Specific Characters: Galium saxatile, L. - Stem prostrate, twisted, smooth, without re-flexed bristles, leaves obovate, 6 in a whorl, flowers white, in a dense panicle, fruit granular.