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Swamp Bedstraw (Galium brevipes)

Life history

Species overview

Swamp Bedstraw (Galium brevipes), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found in southern sedge meadows, black spruce-white cedar swamps, and moist swales behind dunes, fens, and low sandy woods. Blooming occurs from July through September. The optimal identification period for this species is late July through September.

Synonyms: Galium trifidum ssp. brevipes


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distinguished from the similar G. trifidum by the pedicels, which are smooth (not scabrous) and short (1 to 4 mm long vs. 7 to 18 mm long)
  • Flower characteristics: Flowers small, white, borne mostly singly on short (1 to 4 mm long) pedicels that are recurved at the tip; petals 3.
  • Fruit characteristics: Fruit glabrous, the segments divergent and nearly distinct at maturity, 1 mm long.
  • Leaf characteristics: Leaves in whorls of 4, linear, 3 to 7 mm long, blunt at tip.


  • Blooming phenology: July through September
  • Fruiting phenology:
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is late July through September


  • Growth form: Forb-weakly erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: variable, includes Fagus grandidentata, Pinus spp., Tsuga canadensis, Acer rubrum, Picea mariana, Thuja occidentalis, Eleocharis intermedia, Hypericum boreale.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Swamp Bedstraw (Galium brevipes). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Galium brevipes in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG4?
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in southern sedge meadows, black spruce-white cedar swamps, and moist swales behind dunes, fens, and low sandy woods.
  • Soils: Moist soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Swamp Bedstraw. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Swamp Bedstraw. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid disturbance near wet areas such as small ponds or swales in wooded areas where this species has been reported.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • Survey for and control invasive plants prior to conducting timber operations, as these can be spread by vehicles and often respond vigorously to increased light; see forestry BMPs for invasive species.
  • Although maintaining high overall forest canopy is important, silvicultural techniques which open small gaps in the canopy may be beneficial to this species.


Swamp Bedstraw Photo.

Photo © Gary Fewless, Wisconsin State Herbarium

Swamp Bedstraw Photo.

Photo ©  USDA-NRCS.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition