A British native wildflower found in meadows across the country, but now sadly much less commonly than previously. Finely cut foliage topped by myriads of tiny golden flowers in June and July which fill the air with a honey scent.
Very good for a wildflower area or meadow and will gently self-seed. Loved by bees and pollinating insects.
Common name(s): Lady's Bed Straw, Cheese Rennet, Golden Dust, Lady's Tresses, Robin Run The Hedge, Halfsmart, Maiden's Hair, Rennet Weed, Petty Mugget.
History and Legend
Regular listeners of The Archers may remember that it was voted the County Flower of Borsetshire following a poll by Plantlife in 2002!
The plant was once used as a substitute for rennet to curdle milk for cheese. In Gloucester it was used to colour Double Gloucester cheese.
Before the advent of the modern mattress, Lady's Bedstraw was used for bedding thanks to its soft and springy quality and pleasant scent - it smells of hay when dry. It was also said to be one of the 'cradle herbs', the plants used to line the manger in which the baby Jesus was laid. A German legend tells that the manger was lined with bracken and Lady's Bedstraw. At that time the bracken had a flower, but the plant refused to recognise Christ's divinity, and so lost its flower. Bedstraw did acknowledge it, so kept its flower.
The flower also has association with giving birth in Norse mythology. Scandinavians used lady's bedstraw as a sedative for women in labour and Frigg, the goddess of married women, was said to help women give birth. As such they called it 'Frigg's grass'.
Photo: Creative Commons License