Species Spotlight: California Bedstraw Blooms

May 29, 2024 | MSHCP, Species

April showers bring May flowers–and in western Riverside County, that means the blooming of California bedstraw (Galium californicum ssp. primum), a California native plant. This herbaceous perennial flowers from May through July and typically stands at an average height of just 3.5 to 6 inches.

The MSHCP characterizes this species as generally well-distributed but requires the conservation of specific Core Areas to ensure their required habitat remains. The California bedstraw occurs in granitic or sandy soils in shaded, moist areas where chaparral meets lower montane pine forests, at the lower edge of the pine belt. The pine forest and chaparral ecotone support species associated with the California bedstraw including Jeffery pine (Pinus jeffreyi), Coulter pine (Pinus coulteri), interior live oak (Quercus wislizenii), and birchleaf mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides).

With its specific habitat requirements, the California bedstraw is a treasure restricted to the San Jacinto Mountains primarily within US Forest Service (USFS) lands. California bedstraw is recognized as a Forest Service Sensitive Plant, and as such, is protected through the implementation of Forest plans and the USFS biological evaluation process which considers the potential effects of Forest Service activities on the species.

Fun fact, the California bedstraw is in the coffee family! It produces small clusters of male flowers and single female flowers in the leaf joints. Once fertilized, the flowers will produce berries sparsely covered with small hairs, which animals pick up, aiding in seed dispersal. Additionally, California bedstraw provides food for pollinators like Sphinx moths (Sphingidae family) and Sulphur butterflies (Pieridae family).

Hybridization is a significant threat to this bedstraw, as it coexists with the San Diego bedstraw (Galium nuttallii), and experiences genetic swamping. Both species share a variety of morphological characteristics, and similar habitats making the threat even more pressing. The MSHCP has identified and described 41,420 acres of land supporting suitable habitat within the San Jacinto Mountains Bioregion for conservation in western Riverside County to preserve this rare species.