Sweet woodruff — also known as sweetscented bedstraw — is a perennial herb prized for its vanilla-like fragrance. At one time its leaves were used to stuff mattresses and pillows, but today you're more likely to find it in potpourri or on dried wreaths. Sweet woodruff is also a natural insect repellent, so the dried leaves can be made into sachets to ward off moths from stored clothing. Its use as a culinary herb is largely confined to German foods and beverages, where it is used to flavor May wine, beer syrup, sausages, jams and jellies.

Sweet woodruff loves shade and is often planted around trees in wooded areas, or as a ground cover in areas where grass will not grow. It's a very attractive plant; the leaves grow in a daisy-like formation in several swirls per stem, and blooms tiny white flowers in the spring. But beware: this plant has invasive roots, and in warmer climes it really spreads. If you prefer a tidy garden, plant sweet woodruff in a large container, perhaps under a dwarf fruit tree if you don't have a shady spot on your deck. It's usually best to start with seedlings or cuttings but seeds are available; but beware, they have a short storage life. Of course, if you live in northern Europe near a wooded area, you're probably laughing about cultivating this plant because sweet woodruff grows wild in the forest.

Bottom line: sweet woodruff is a nice addition to your garden when planted in the right place, and if you don't live in a hot climate.

Kingdom: Plantae • Subkingdom: Tracheobionta • Superdivision: Spermatophyta • Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida • Subclass: Asteridae • Order: Rubiales • Family: Rubiaceae • Genus: Galium • Species: Galium odoratum


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