Galium sterneri

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaRubiaceaeGaliumGalium sterneri


A perennial herb of short grassland overlying limestone and basic igneous rocks and mica-schist, also growing on vegetated scree slopes, rock ledges and limestone pavement. Lowland to 975 m on Creag Mhor (Mid Perth).



World Distribution

Suboceanic Boreal-montane element.

Atlas Change Index: 0.69

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Galium sterneri Ehrende

Limestone bedstraw

Status: not scarce



G. sterneri grows in base-rich short grassland often on steep slopes and ledges where the turf is fragmentary. The plant also occurs in bare rock crevices. In the Scottish Highlands its associates at high altitude include G. boreale, Geum rivale, Linum catharticum, Persicaria vivipara, Saxifraga aizoides and Thalictrum alpinum. In northern England the main habitat for G. sterneri is Sesleria caerulea grassland where it is a constant species. Here the main associates are Briza media, Campanula rotundifolia, Carex flacca, Festuca ovina, Helianthemum nummularium, Koeleria macrantha, Thymus polytrichus and Ctenidium molluscum. Helianthemum canum may replace H. nummularium as an associate at some localities in northern England. Other rare associates include Gentiana verna, Minuartia verna and Myosotis alpestris. It may occur in sites subject to some basic flushing, and tends to avoid heavily droughted vegetation. It is found from sea-level to 975 metres on Creag Mhor.

G. sterneri is a perennial herb which in spring sends out creeping shoots forming a spreading mat. Later, in June, July or even August, it produces upright flowering shoots with longish peduncles forming a rather open, somewhat flat-topped, inflorescence. The creamy flowers are visited by small flies, and fruits are commonly produced.

Recognition of G. sterneri as a distinct species has been slow. In the nineteenth century, Floras noted G. saxatile, the common heath bedstraw and a rarer heath bedstraw with various names, including G. pumilum, G. sylvestre and G. pusillum (Hennedy 1891; Hooker 1870). In the present century the southern plants of this rarer group were separated as G. pumilum and the more numerous northern group became G. sterneri. Acceptance of this move was slow, but was assisted perhaps by a BSBI exhibit in 1955 (Goodway 1955). The relatively brief period since this species was recognised makes it difficult to judge whether its abundance or range is changing.

This species is confined to north-west Europe, where it occurs in Denmark, Germany, Norway and the Faeroes as well as in Britain and Ireland. The closely related G. normanii occurs in Iceland and Norway. 

Both diploid and tetraploid populations of this species are found in Britain, but they are morphologically indistinguishable.



P J. Lusby & A. Slack

Atlas text references

Atlas (261c)
Grime JP, Hodgson JG, Hunt R
1988.  Comparative Plant Ecology.
Meusel H, Jäger EJ
1992.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 3. 2 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.