Perennial herb with a creeping rhizome 20 cm - 0.5 m tall Leaves: in whorls of four to six, 5 mm - 2 cm long, linear to narrowly elliptic with a blunt tip, one-veined, often roughly hairy along the margins and sometimes on the midrib beneath. Flowers: mostly in two's or three's, on 2 - 4 mm long straight stalks, whitish, 1 - 1.5 mm wide, more or less flat and circular in outline, with three short, blunt lobes. Stamens four, shorter than corolla. Styles two, short. Fruit: dry, indehiscent, 1 - 2 mm long, spherical, paired, separating when ripe, one-seeded. Stems: numerous, weak, often scrambling over other plants, slender, four-angled, often much branched, roughly hairy on the angles or essentially hairless.
Similar species: No information at this time.
Flowering: late June to early October
Habitat and ecology: Woods, marshes, roadside ditches, and other wet areas.
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. Tinctorium means "used for dyeing."
Very much like G. trifidum, of which it is often considered to be a var. or ssp., but said to be distinct in the field; differing as indicated in the key; pedicels consistently glabrous. Moist or swampy places, usually in circumneutral or somewhat alkaline soils; Nf. to Fla. and Hispaniola, w. to Minn., Mo., Tex., and Mex. Most plants of our range belong to the var. tinctorium, with the mericarps 2-3 mm and the pedicels rarely over 5 mm. The chiefly more southern var. floridanum Wiegand extends n. to the s. fringe of our range and along the coast to Mass.; it is more robust, with the mericarps 3-4 mm, and pedicels commonly 5-8 mm in fr.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.