A woodruff by any other name would smell as sweet


I like to mix my sweet woodruff with lamiums, ivy, and, of course, weeds.

Huh? Wha?

Here I am innocently perusing my Bluestone catalog, getting all excited about spending twice as money with them by ordering perennials in the fall AND spring, when I see that what I have been calling gallium odorata for years is NOW called … asperula odorata. And that the gallium verum is nowhere to be found. I don’t know what they’re calling that now.

No explanation. I’m almost afraid that if I were to call and ask, there’d be this 1984ish scenario where I would be told that the plant has ALWAYS been called asperula. (Yes, I know, I’m going too far. I am sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation.)

But still. I love the name sweet woodruff. It makes me think of sachets, May wine, and one of the easiest-growing groundcover a Northeastern gardener could ever want. I also liked the name gallium, though not as much. Omnia Gallia est and all that. Asperula isn’t quite as pleasant in its Latin meaning or in its sound.

Oh, well. Whatever the nomenclature experts do, it’ll always be sweet woodruff.

And by the way, does anyone know the reasonable explanation?

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. Reclassification of plant life has always happened as we learn more about plants.
    Advances in Molecular Biology
    [cell biology :structure, and components of the cell], allow differences at the cellular level to be evaluated.

  2. Don’t know why, but apparently the plant was reclassified as a different genus in the same family. Galium and Asperulum are existing genera in the family Rubiaceae.

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