Galium album/mollugo

This has bothered me for a while, and I’ve tried to Google it to no avail – what is the difference between Galium album and G. mollugo? Some sources seem to treat them as synonyms, some seem to separate them, and the official Swedish database doesn’t mention G. album at all. So what gives? They just started blooming here, so I expect a host of observations soon…


Take a look at this GoBotany page about Galium album, it has a section at the bottom about Galium mollugo where there are differences in flower size.

It’s helpful to walk through the key from Galium to see where they diverge, in this case at the very end, meaning they are very similar.

Based on the key, most photos you’ll see would be difficult to narrow except to Galium without any ruler, unfortunately.

Regarding databases, that sometimes happens. I usually search for “jepson (whatever plant) key” to find a key for a plant I’m interested in, but it only had G. mollugo. Maybe it’s not known to occur in the region covering that key?

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Even POWO is not sure, we just id everything as mollugo, likely that’s what other databases choose to do.
Here it says Galium mollugo subsp. album is a synonym, and there’re bunch of authors who agree and disagree it’s a separate species, iNat would win from merging them together.


Based on @Marina_Gorbunova’s last reply, I also looked at Tropicos.

It seems like Galium album is now Galium mollugo subs. album so it’s probably acceptable to identify both Galium album and Galium mollugo as Galium mollugo.

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This may be interesting for you: (if you’re familiar with German language).


Using Microsoft Edge, I just clicked translate page and it was completely readable in English. Great resource. Thanks for that. Seems more an more plant genus are becoming more and more complicated to ID to species or are becoming complicated. Looking at you, Taraxacum officinale. Identifying others observations from photos is an even greater challenge.


I’m not sure it’s really more so than before. Look at the long lists of synonymies for some species. The California Fan Palm is currently Washingtonia filifera; but at various times, it has been

  • Brahea dulcis J.G. Cooper
  • Brahea filamentosa (Franceschi) Kuntze
  • Brahea filifera (Linden ex André) hort. ex S. Watson
  • Livistona filamentosa (H. Wendl. ex Franceschi) Pfister
  • Neowashingtonia filamentosa (Franceschi) Sudw.
  • Neowashingtonia filifera (Linden ex André) Sudw.
  • Pritchardia filamentosa Franceschi
  • Pritchardia filifera Linden ex André
  • Washingtonia filamentosa (Franceschi) Kuntze
  • Washingtonia filifera var. microsperma Becc.

Just imagine the mess if there had been iNaturalist back then – the comment threads on observations as people debated the fine points of distinguishing among these, and the observations stuck at Tribe Tachycarpeae forever because no one of these names could get a two-thirds majority vote.

Jason, thanks for that interesting take. INaturalist is certainly given me much more exposure to taxonomic discussions. That’s something I love about iNaturalist.

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