Rubiaceae (Madder Family)
General - a slender, trailing perennial with smooth and weak square stems; either stretched out or leaning on other plants.
Leaves - in whorls of 5 to 6 on main branches, narrowly elliptic, 1 - 6 cm long, abruptly bristle-tipped, single-veined, sweet, vanilla-scented; hooked bristles along edges and below on midvein.
Flowers - 3 per stalk, in loose, open clusters at step tips and from upper leaf axils, become wide-spreading, 2 - 3 mm across; 4 petals, greenish white; appearing early summer.
Fruit - nutlets, 1.5 - 3 mm long, in pairs, covered with hooked bristles; appearing late summer.
Moist places and damp woods; widespread across our region, north and west to souther N.W.T. and southwestern Alaska; circumpolar.
Fragrant Bedstraw contains coumarin compounds that smell strongly of vanilla. These compounds are indirect anticoagulants by blocking vitamin K, and have a delayed effect on the blood. Because these plants are sweet-smelling when dried, they were often used to stuff mattresses - hence the common name 'bedstraw'.
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