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Galium odoratum
Galium odoratum in flower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Galium
Species: G. odoratum
Binomial name
Galium odoratum
(L.) Scop.[1]
Synonyms

Asperula odorata

Galium odoratum is a perennial plant in the family Rubiaceae, native to Europe, North Africa and western Asia. A herbaceous plant, it grows to 30-50 cm (12-20 ins.) long, often lying flat on the ground or supported by other plants. Its vernacular names include woodruff, sweet woodruff, and wild baby's breath; master of the woods is probably a translation of the German Waldmeister. It is sometimes confused with Galium triflorum and Galium verum.

Growth

Fruits

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.

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).

Uses

Botanical illustration from Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885

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 "Maiwein" or "Maibowle" in German), beer (Berliner Weisse), brandy, sausages, jelly, jam, a soft drink (Tarhun), ice cream, and a herbal tea with gentle sedative properties. In Germany it is also used to flavour Sherbet (powder). Mixed with German "corn schnapps" (alternative: vodka), it is a popular party drink among young people. It is called "Korn Brause" or "Korn ahoi".

Woodruff1.jpg

High doses can cause headaches, due to the toxicity of coumarin. Very high doses of coumarin can cause vertigo, somnolence or even central paralysis and apnoea while in a coma. Since 1981, Galium odoratum may no longer be used as an ingredient of industrially produced drinks and food stuffs in Germany; it has been replaced by artificial aromas and colorings.

References


Wikispecies

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Galium odoratum

Taxonavigation

Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Asterids
Cladus: Euasterids I
Ordo: Gentianales
Familia: Rubiaceae
Subfamilia: Rubioideae
Tribus: Rubieae
Genus: Galium
Species: Galium odoratum

Name

Galium odoratum Linnaeus

References

  • Fl. carniol. ed. 2, 1:105. 1771
  • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Data from 07-Oct-06]. 103279

Vernacular names

Deutsch: Waldmeister
English: Woodruff
Español: Aspérula
Galego: Áspera







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