- Name also: Threepetal Bedstraw (USA)
- Family: Bedstraw Family – Rubiaceae
- Growing form: Perennial herb.
- Height: 5–25 cm (2–10 in.). Stem limp, thin, 4-edged, rough.
- Flower: Corolla wheel-shaped, white, approx. 1 mm (0.04 in.) broad, fused, 3-lobed. Calyx lacking. Stamens 3, anthers yellow. Pistil of 2 fused carpels, styles 2. Flowers in axillary cymes of 1–3 flowers.
- Leaves: Regular (actinomorphic), usually 4 whorled leaves; stalkless. Blade linearly lanceolate, round-tipped, lacking bristle, with entire margin, rigidly haired and slightly revolute.
- Fruit: 2-parted, glossy, glabrous schizocarp, carpels almost spherical.
- Habitat: Waterside meadows which are prone to flooding, stream banks, peat-covered areas, bogs.
- Flowering time: June–August.
Small bedstraw grows almost without exception solely in the northern coniferous forest, which most of Finland belongs to. There seems to be gaps in the plant’s habitat, although this impression might be a result of a lack of information as the small species can easily go unnoticed, and at first glance it can be confused with its similar-looking relatives.
Small bedstraw, fen bedstraw (G. uliginosum) and marsh bedstraw (G. palustre) are all limp-stemmed, quite small species that favour damp habitats, and require comparison to be identified. Fen bedstraw can usually be easily distinguished by its spruce-like leaf whorls and bristle-tipped leaves. Small bedstraw’s stem is stickily rough and the corolla is most often with only three lobes. Small bedstraw often has even less stems than its close relatives. It is also clearly more concentrated in coastal areas than either fen bedstraw or marsh bedstraw.
The members of the bedstraw family occurring in Finland bear their leaves seemingly in whorls. In reality, each node only bears two opposite leaves. The other, strikingly leaf-like appendages, are actually stipules. Bedstraws closely resemble their relatives, woodruffs (Asperula spp.). The best distinguishing characters can be found in the flowers. The corollas of the woodruffs are funnel-shaped with a long tube. The bedstraws have wheel-shaped corollas with a short tube.