This perennial wildflower is ¾-2½' tall, abundantly branched, and
sprawling across adjacent vegetation. The stems are light to medium
green, sharply 4-angled and sparsely rough-edged from short stiff
these stems are whorls of 4-6 sessile leaves; whorls of 5-6 leaves
occur where the stem branches, otherwise there are 4 leaves per whorl.
leaves are up to 1" (25 mm.) long and ¼" (6 mm.) across; they are
medium to dark
green and narrowly elliptic or narrowly elliptic-oblanceolate in shape.
The leaf margins are without teeth and rough-edged from short stiff
hairs. There is a single prominent vein per leaf.
Both terminal and axillary cymes of 1-3 flowers are produced.
Individual flowers are 1/8" (3 mm.) across or a little less; each
flower has a white
corolla with 3 (less often 4) spreading lobes, a bifurcated two-celled
ovary with a pair of styles, and 3 (less often 4) stamens. The surface
of the ovary is
green and smooth. The pedicels of the flowers or fruits are up to 1"
long, straight, and angular; their edges are smooth. The blooming
period occurs during the summer for about 2-3
months. Usually, only a few flowers are in bloom at the same time. Each
flower is replaced by a two-celled seedpod that is about 1/8" (3 mm.)
The seedpod changes color as it matures from green, to purple, and
black. Each cell of the pod is globoid-ovoid in
shape, smooth, and single-seeded. The root system is fibrous and
The preference is full or partial sun,
wet to moist conditions, and soil containing loam, clay-loam, sand, or
gravel. Standing water is
readily tolerated if it is temporary.
Stiff Bedstraw is occasional in northern Illinois, and uncommon or
absent in the rest of the state (see Distribution
). Habitats include marshes, fens, low areas
along rivers and ponds, swamps, wet sand prairies, prairie swales,
and ditches. Stiff Bedstraw is usually found in higher quality wetlands
The flowers are cross-pollinated by flies and small bees. The
caterpillars of some moths feed on the foliage or flower tissues of Galium
These species include: Epirrhoe alternata
(Galium Sphinx), Lobocleta ossularia
Brown Wave), and Scopula
(Soft-Lined Wave). The species
(Black Cherry Aphid) uses Galium
as summer hosts.
Three plant bugs in Illinois are known to feed on these
, and the introduced
White-Tailed Deer browse on the foliage
sparingly or not at all. Because the bristly hairs of the stems and
leaves can cling to passing objects, animals may play a minor role in
spreading the seeds to new locations.
A wet sand prairie at the Indiana Dunes National
Stiff Bedstraw is unusual because its corollas can have 3-4 lobes on
the same plant. In Illinois, the only other bedstraw with 3 lobes on
its corollas is Small Bedstraw (Galium
This latter species is similar to Stiff Bedstraw, but smaller in size
and slightly more bristly. In particular, the pedicels of Small
Bedstraw are bristly and curved, while those of Stiff Bedstraw are
smooth and straight. While Stiff Bedstraw is scattered throughout
Illinois, Small Bedstraw
is restricted to northern Illinois and a sandy area of central
Illinois. This latter species has a more northern distribution and
prefers a cool climate.