Perennial herb with a creeping rhizome 20 cm - 0.6 m tall Stem: upright or ascending, slender, four-angled, unbranched or branched from the base, more or less hairy. Leaves: in whorls of four, 2 - 5 cm long, 1 - 2.5 cm wide, egg-shaped to elliptic to oblong egg-shaped with a blunt tip, three- to five-veined, sometimes densely hairy. Inflorescence: a small cluster of flowers, unbranched, or with one or two widely spreading forks. Flowers: distantly spaced, stalkless or nearly so, greenish purple, small, more or less flat and circular in outline, often softly hairy, with four short, pointed lobes. Stamens four, alternating with lobes, shorter than corolla. Styles two, short. Fruit: dry, indehiscent, reflexed, 3 mm wide, spherical, paired, separating when ripe (often only one fully develops), one-seeded, with hooked bristles.
Similar species: No information at this time.
Flowering: late May to early July
Habitat and ecology: Woods.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Etymology: Galium comes from the Greek word gala, meaning milk, referring to the plants that are used to curdle milk. Circaezans means "resembling Circaea" (Enchanter's nightshade).
Erect or ascending perennial 2-6 dm, simple or branched from the base, the stems ±pubescent; lvs in 4's, oval, elliptic, or ovate-oblong, broadest near the middle, 2-5 נ1-2.5 cm, obtuse, 3-5-nerved; infls terminal and from the upper axils, simple or with 1 or 2 divaricate forks, the fls remote, sessile or subsessile; cor greenish-purple, pilose, the lobes acute; fr reflexed, uncinate-hispid, 3 mm; often only one carpel fully developed, the other maturing into a small elaiosome; 2n=22. Dry woods and thickets; Me. to n. Mich. and Minn., s. to Fla., Kans., and Tex. June, July. Northern plants, with ±densely hairy lvs, have been segregated as var. hypomalacum Fernald; they pass freely into the chiefly more southern var. circaezans, with more thinly hairy or glabrous lvs.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
Fernald (Rhodora 39: 449-450. 1937) has divided this species into a northern and southern form. He designates the southern form as the typical form of the species. [It has smaller leaves (less than 2.5 cm long and 1.4 cm wide) and veins on the lower leaf surface that are almost glabrous. Out of my 73 Indiana specimens I am referring all but three to the variety [hypomalacum, a form with long-hirsute veins on the lower leaf surface]. [Variety hypomalacum] is frequent in moist, rich woods throughout the state.