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Genus of the Week

Week of May 25-31

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This page has been created for people who want to learn more about plants, especially in the context of their taxonomy (Latin names, etc.). This is by no means an exhaustive list of all available Web resources on a particular genus.

This week's genus:

Galium: The Bedstraws

Subclass: Dicotyledoneae
Superorder: Asteridae
Order: Rubiales
Family: Rubiaceae
Subfamily: Rubioideae
Number of Species: At Least 100
Root: Greek gala, meaning "milk", a reference to the ancient use of this genus to curdle milk in order to make cheese.

The plants of the genus Galium are now present mainly as weedy and/or ornamental species, but they were formerly used for many purposes, including the stuffing of mattresses and pillows. Species have also been used to dye wool red (G. verum) and as substitute for coffee (G. aparnine). This genus is the main herbaceous one of the Rubiceae and consists of mostly temperate species; most other genuses in the family are woody.

Here are a few links to images and descriptions of different Galium species:


  1. Forey, Pamela. Wild Flowers of North America. New York, Gallery Books: 1991.
  2. Heywood, V.H., ed. Flowering Plants of the World. New York, Oxford University Press: 1993.
  3. Neiring, William A. and Nancy C. Olmstead., eds. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region. Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1979.

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