Crosswort is a tufted perennial identifiable by its un-stalked leaves in whorls along the stem and small, pale yellow flowers of four petals clustered around the stem just above the leaves. The only other common plant with whorled leaves and yellow flowers is Lady’s bedstraw but it, in common with other true bedstraws, has its flowers in terminal panicles giving it a more ‘frothy’ appearance (see the Lady’s bedstraw page for more detail and photographs). Crosswort is in flower from April to June.
Crosswort is a winter-green perennial of moderately fertile, well-drained, neutral or calcareous soils. It is found on a range of relatively undisturbed habitats including woodland edges and rides, hedges, open scrub and ungrazed grassland. Because of its tolerance to semi-shade and its ability to regenerate through rhizomes and subterranean stolons, it can persist in these unmanaged habitats. However, it does require occasional disturbance by grazing or cutting if it is not to be displaced by taller, more competitive species.
Seed is best sown in the autumn as dormancy is broken by a period of chilling.