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Today's flower-herb is Sweet Woodruff or Wild Baby's Breath (Latin name: Galium Odoratum). What, you have never heard of it? Perhaps that's because you are too young or not German enough. Until 1981 Woodruff (Waldmeister i.e. "Master of the woods" in German) was used in Germany, to flavor May wine ("Maiwein" or "Maibowle" in German) and beer (Berliner Weisse) among other things, but no longer.

These days, all industrial production with a Woodruff scent in Germany must substitute an artificial aroma. This is because the plant's sweet scent comes from coumarin, a substance that in large quantities can be moderately toxic to humans. This relegates the plant to limited other uses as an insect repellent, rat poison or ground cover.

I can't vouch for its other uses, but as a ground cover Sweet Woodruff works quite well. I picked up the plants seen in the attached picture (taken today during a very rare rainy day) at an end of season WalMart clearance in the Summer of 2007 for all of $0.13 per six pack. I planted Sweet Woodruff on a slope next to the north-facing wall of the house, where there were previously concrete steps. Soil was never amended following the removal of concrete and the roof overhangs this area - Woodruff is heavily shaded and gets very little rain. Nevertheless, the plant has expanded quite well and is now happily blooming.

All that is left is to wait for the grape planted on the opposite side of the slope to start producing and then we can make some real traditional Maiwein right here in America - I can hardly wait!

Sweet Woodruff aka Wild Baby's Breath, Waldmeister, Galium Odoratum

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Are you currently bullish or bearish on the economy and the stock market?:

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