Galium palustre subsp. palustre


Galium: From the Greek galo 'milk', the leaves of Galium verum being used in the past to curdle milk
palustre: From the Latin palus 'swamp', meaning growing in swamps

Common Name(s)

marsh bedstraw


Galium palustre L.



Brief Description

Small herb with thin straggling stems, rough to the touch, often scrambling through taller vegetation, leaves in groups of 4 along the stem, with small groups of tiny (2-3 mm across) white flowers obvious during summer and autumn.

Flora Category

Vascular - Exotic

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Herbs other than Composites


Throughout in lowland areas, commonest in north and west of both islands.


Swamps and wet grass and sedgeland near water bodies.


Perennial; stems slender, weak and straggling, to c. 60 cm long, glabrous, or scabridulous on the acute angles. Lvs and stipules in whorls of 4-(6), subsessile or with short petiole to c. 1 mm long, 3-15 × 0.7-4.5 mm, linear, narrow-elliptic or oblanceolate, generally glabrous; margins flat, sometimes scabridulous; apex usually obtuse, sometimes subacute. Lvs of uppermost nodes often smaller. Cymes small, loose, glabrous or nearly so, often 2-5 from same axis, each with c. 3-7 fls, usually aggregated into panicles of up to 20 fls; peduncles very variable in length, to c. 2 cm long; pedicels up to 3 mm long, divaricating at fruiting; bracts leaflike at base of infl., either very reduced or 0 toward apex. Corolla 2-3-(3.5) mm diam., white; lobes ovate or ovate-oblong, acute or mucronulate. Mericarps 0.8-1.2 mm diam., globular, ± papillate.

Similar Taxa

Galium debile is similar both in habitat and growth habit, differing by the denser flowering cymes, fruiting inflorescence branches not markedly divaricationg and the usually narrower leaves.


Summer to autumn

Flower Colours



Summer to autumn

Year Naturalised



Europe and Asia Minor

Reason for Introduction

Unknown, possibly seed or soil contaminant

Control Techniques

Not controlled in New Zealand.

Life Cycle and Dispersal

Seed dispersed by animals, water or contaminated machinery.


Factsheet prepared by Paul Champion and Deborah Hofstra (NIWA). Features description from Webb et al., (1988).

References and further reading

Webb, C.J.; Sykes, W.R.; Garnock-Jones, P.J. (1988). Flora of New Zealand Volume 4: Naturalised pteridophytes, gymnosperms, dicotyledons. Botany Division, DSIR, Christchurch.

Popay et al (2010).  An illustrated guide to common weeds of New Zealand, third edition.  NZ Plant Protection Society Inc, 416pp.

Johnson PN, Brooke PA (1989).  Wetland plants in New Zealand.   DSIR Field Guide, DSIR Publishing, Wellington. 319pp.

This page last updated on 21 Aug 2013