Sweet Woodruff (Galium Odoratum) Identification

Sweet Woodruff / Spring / Summer / Autumn / Edible

Sweet Woodruff is an edible & delicious low lying, perennial plant, found in well established woodlands.

Common Names

Sweet Woodruff, Sweet-scented bedstraw.

Botanical Name

Galium Odoratum

Scientific Classification

Kingdom – Plantae

Order – Gentianales

Family – Rubiaceae

Foraging Video for Sweet Woodruff

Physical Characteristics of Sweet Woodruff


The small, simple, hairless leaves grow in ‘whorls’ around the stem.

Llez, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Small (4-7mm) white flowers with four petals.

Agnieszka Kwiecień, Nova, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Typically found in well-established woodlands, the plant prefers full to partial shade and damp, rich soils.

Photo by David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Known Hazards

The flavour of the leaves derives from the chemical coumarin, if the plants are dried under damp conditions this can be converted to dicoumarin which can prevent blood clotting and lead to uncontrolled bleeding. However the plant is safe if dried quickly and stored in a sealed container.

Could be Confused with…

Cleavers, but Sweet Woodruff lacks the sticky bristles. Cleavers are also edible

Edible Uses

The flavour of the leaves is somewhere between vanilla and almond and have been traditionally used to flavour drinks. The dried leaves can be used to flavour milk based dishes for example rice pudding or panna cotta.

AnRo0002, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Notes on Herbal Uses

The plant has been used in the past to treat wounds and is helpful for liver or digestive issues.

Extra notes from the Foragers

The petals are covered with spherical structures which when viewed under a microscope look like tiny pearls.

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