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Galium odoratum

Other names:  Galium odoratum, May grass

Habitat:  Temperate climates in North America and Europe

Properties:  Sweet woodruff is an attractive ground cover that broadcasts its aroma each May. Consider growing it as a low-maintenance carpet in a shaded spot in your yard. The leaves develop a distinctive scent of fresh-cut hay and vanilla only as they dry.

In Germany, where sweet woodruff is known as the Waldmeister (master of the forest), it is used to flavor May wine as a traditional way to greet this spring month. The practice originated in the thirteenth century, and Germans still serve the Mai Bowle each day of the month. May Day celebrations have long marked the passage of winter, dating back to ancient Druid rituals.

Can be propagated by seeds in the fall to produce plants the following spring; cold weather encourages them to germinate. However, it's easier to buy because the seeds may take 200 days to germinate. Provide slightly acidic soil, rich in nutrients and humus; leaf mold compost is best. Keep soil moist.

Harvest foliage when needed. Stems may be cut close to the ground. Either hand-tie sprigs and hang them in a warm, airy place, or chop the herb immediately after harvesting and dry in a warm, shady place.

Copyright 1996, 1998 by Lori Herron and Alternative Nature
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