Isn’t it weird how you can spend a significant part of your life somewhere and yet miss things about it entirely? On my recent visit to my cottage in New Brunswick, I was out picking wild flowers which I’ve done a million times before, and my bouquet included some of these flowers….
It’s a flower commonly found along our road which I have picked many, many times over the years. However, what I hadn’t noticed before was it’s scent. It has a subtle yet absolutely delicious scent! As we walked by it, a breeze would blow and you would smell the sweet aroma. So I needed to find out, what is this flower?
My mother calls it sweet hay while my father thought it was called sweet grass. I did some searching using that but neither name came up with anything in Google or Google images that matched. I used my own photo in the Google image search tool to try to find a match, but no luck. Eventually, after trying a lot of different searches, I was able to figure out what it is….Smooth Bedstraw! And, not surprisingly, I also found out it’s a WEED.
Smooth Bedstraw or Galium Mollugo (also called Hedge Bedstraw in the UK), is a scrambling perennial, with smooth square stems. It can grow up to 1 m high, and has white clusters of flowers. Here are some bedstraw fun facts:
- The genus name, ‘Galium‘ is from the Greek word for milk and refers to an old use for the plant to curdle milk in making cheese.
- The common name ‘bedstraw’ is said to originate from medieval times when a particular variety of this plant was dried and used to stuff mattresses
- The stems can be used to produce red or yellow dyes
- Some variety’s have been used as an ingredient in perfumes
Sadly, it’s not just a weed, but a pretty invasive one that is bad very bad for farmers fields. Most of the documentation I found on it is was about how to control it or get rid of it!
So, while I would like to add this sweet smelling weed to my garden, I don’t want it to get overrun with it. There are many varieties of this species and one common garden variety is sweet woodruff, which is used as ground cover. I might have to add that to my garden next year and hope it smells as nice as the smooth bedstraw.
On another note, I would love to find a smooth bedstraw scented room spray or candle. However, even though the shoots of these plants have been used to make perfumes in the past, these day there aren’t a lot of people marketing “invasive weed” scented products (big shocker). Sigh.
Regardless, I’m happy I was able to figure out the origins of this sweet smelling plant, even if it is a weed.
Have a great day!