Galium odoratum

Botanical Name :Galium odoratum
Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Galium
Species: G. odoratum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Gentianales
Synonyms: Asperula odorata – L.
Common Names: woodruff, sweet woodruff, and wild baby’s breath; master of the woods
Habitat :Galium odoratum  is native to much of Europe from Spain and Ireland to Russia, as well as Western Siberia, Turkey, Iran, the Caucasus, China and Japan. It is also sparingly naturalized in scattered locations in the United States and Canada. It grows in woodland and shady areas on damp calcareous and base rich soils. Often found in beech woods

Description:
Galium odoratum  is a Perennial herb, growing to 0.15m by 0.45m at a medium rate.The leaves are simple, lanceolate, glabrous, 2–5 cm long, and borne in whorls of 6-9. The small (4–7 mm diameter) flowers are produced in cymes, each white with four petals joined together at the base. The fruits are 2–4 mm diameter, produced singly, and each is covered in tiny hooked bristles which help disperse them by sticking temporarily to clothing and animal fur.

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It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to July, and the seeds ripen from July to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Flies, bees. The plant is self-fertile.

This plant prefers partial to full shade in moist, rich soils. In dry summers it needs frequent irrigation. Propagation is by crown division, separation of the rooted stems, or digging up of the barely submerged perimeter stolons. It is ideal as a groundcover or border accent in woody, acidic gardens where other shade plants fail to thrive. Deer avoid eating it (Northeast US

Cultivation:
Prefers a loose moist leafy soil in some shade. Tolerates dry soils but the leaves quickly become scorched when growing in full sun. This species does not thrive in a hot climate. Prefers a moist calcareous soil. Dislikes very acid soils. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.3 to 8.3. This species is very tolerant of atmospheric pollution and grows well in towns. A very cold-hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to about -25°c. Sweet woodruff is occasionally cultivated in the herb garden for its medicinal and other uses. The dried foliage has the sweet scent of newly mown hay. A very ornamental plant but it spreads rapidly and can be invasive. However, this is rarely to the detriment of other plants since these are normally able to grow through it. It does no harm to any plants more than 60cm tall.

Propagation:
Seed – best sown in situ as soon as it is ripe in late summer. The seed can also be sown in spring though it may be very slow to germinate. A period of cold stratification helps reduce the germination time. Lots of leafmold in the soil and the shade of trees also improves germination rates. Division in spring. The plant can also be successfully divided throughout the growing season if the divisions are kept moist until they are established. Very easy, larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring. Cuttings of soft wood, after flowering, in a frame.

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Edible Uses:
Leaves are eaten raw or cooked. The leaves are coumarin-scented (like freshly mown hay), they are used as a flavouring in cooling drinks and are also added to fruit salads etc. The leaves are soaked in white wine to make ‘Maitrank‘, an aromatic tonic drink that is made in Alsace. A fragrant and delicious tea is made from the green-dried leaves and flowers. Slightly wilted leaves are used, the tea has a fresh, grassy flavour. The sweet-scented flowers are eaten or used as a garnish

Medicinal Uses:
Antispasmodic; Cardiac; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Homeopathy; Sedative.

Sweet woodruff was widely used in herbal medicine during the Middle Ages, gaining a reputation as an external application to wounds and cuts and also taken internally in the treatment of digestive and liver problems. In current day herbalism it is valued mainly for its tonic, diuretic and anti-inflammatory affect. The leaves are antispasmodic, cardiac, diaphoretic, diuretic, sedative. An infusion is used in the treatment of insomnia and nervous tension, varicose veins, biliary obstruction, hepatitis and jaundice. The plant is harvested just before or as it comes into flower and can be dried for later use. One report says that it should be used with caution whilst another says that it is entirely safe. Excessive doses can produce dizziness and symptoms of poisoning. The dried plant contains coumarins and these act to prevent the clotting of blood – though in excessive doses it can cause internal bleeding. The plant is grown commercially as a source of coumarin, used to make an anticoagulant drug. Do not use this remedy if you are taking conventional medicine for circulatory problems or if you are pregnant. A number of species in this genus contain asperuloside, a substance that produces coumarin and gives the scent of new-mown hay as the plant dries. Asperuloside can be converted into prostaglandins (hormone-like compounds that stimulate the uterus and affect blood vessels), making the genus of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry. A homeopathic remedy made from the plant is used in the treatment of inflammation of the uterus

Other Uses
Dye; Ground cover; Pot-pourri; Repellent; Strewing.
A red dye is obtained from the root. Soft-tan and grey-green dyes are obtained from the stems and leaves. A good ground-cover plant for growing on woodland edges or in the cool shade of shrubs. It spreads rapidly at the roots. It is an ideal carpeting plant for bulbs to grow through. Although the fresh plant has very little aroma, as it dries it becomes very aromatic with the scent of newly-mown grass and then retains this aroma for years. It is used in the linen cupboard to protect from moths etc. It was also formerly used as a strewing herb and is an ingredient of pot-pourri. It was also hung up in bunches in the home in order to keep the rooms cool and fragrant during the summertime.

Scented Plants:
As the epithet odoratum suggests, the plant is strongly scented, the sweet scent being derived from coumarin. This scent increases on wilting and then persists on drying, and the dried plant is used in pot-pourri and as a moth deterrent. It is also used, mainly in Germany, to flavour May wine (called “Maibowle” in German), syrup for beer (Berliner Weisse), brandy, sausages, jelly, jam, a soft drink (Tarhun, which is Georgian), ice cream, and a herbal tea with gentle sedative properties. In Germany it is also used to flavour sherbet powder. Mixed with German “Korn schnapps” or vodka, it is a popular party drink among young people. Also very popular at parties is Waldmeister flavoured jelly made from vodka

Disclaimer:  The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:
http://digedibles.com/database/plants.php?Galium+odoratum
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galium_odoratum
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail499.php

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