Chickweeds & Stitchworts

Water Chickweed Lesser Stitchwort Common Chickweed Common Chickweed

What are they?

Members of the campion family (Caryophyllacea), these plants can mostly be told by their deeply notched or forked petals and their almost hairless stems and leaves. Most are short annuals or short-lived perennials of grassy places with some taller species occurring in wetland areas.

Where are they found?

Most of the species in this group are plants of open, disturbed or grassy ground with some occurring in taller wetland plant communities.

Identification

Habitat type will help to narrow the search initially, after which the number of stamens and styles can be important and should be noted. Leaf size and shape is also important, especially for dividing the stitchworts from the chickweeds.



Common Chickweed      Stellaria media

Native. Abundant in human-influenced habitats such as arable fields and urban habitats but also throughout the region in all kinds of grassy places. Flowers mostly March to June but some plants can be found in flower throughout the year. An infuriatingly variable species, that can range in appearance from creeping, poorly-leaved specimens that resemble Lesser Chickweed, to vigorous, large-leaved individuals that look very like Greater Chickweed. However, the open flowers with 3-5(-8) stamens (anthers reddish before opening) should distinguish it from similar species. The single line of silky hairs on the stem help to distinguish Common Chickweed from the superficially similar Three-nerved Sandwort when not in flower.

Common Chickweed Common Chickweed Common Chickweed Common Chickweed
Habit
Flowers
Flower with four
reddish anthers
Stem with line of hairs


Lesser Chickweed      Stellaria pallida

Native. Common on light, sandy soils, especially in coastal areas and Breckland. Also increasingly as a weed of walls and paving in urban areas. Flowers mostly March to May but occasionally at other times. Easily confused with weak specimens of Common Chickweed and the two are often hard to tell apart. Lesser Chickweed tends to have a slightly sickly look to it and is often a pale, yellowish colour, becoming straw-coloured as the seeds mature. The flowers usually have no petals and often self-pollinate without opening fully - making a count of the stamens tricky! Stamens 1-2, occasionally 3, with grey-violet anthers.

Lesser Chickweed Lesser Chickweed Lesser Chickweed
Habit
Flowers
Older stems with seed capsules


Greater Chickweed      Stellaria neglecta

Native. Uncommon in shady, usually damp places, mostly in the east and more or less absent from Fenland. Flowers April to July. Easily confused with robust specimens of Common Chickweed. The flowers usually have (8-)10 stamens and are overall larger than those of Common Chickweed.

Greater Chickweed Greater Chickweed
Flower with 10 stamens
(six red and unopened)
Leaves clasping stem


Water Chickweed      Myosoton aquaticum

Native. Widespread and often common in wetland habitats along alluvial valleys and in peaty soils. Flowers June to September. Like a very robust Common Chickweed but flowers have 10 stamens and the stigma has five styles (three in Stellaria species). Leaves larger and more elongate than those of other chickweeds and with wavy edges, while the stems often form a zigzag growth style.

Water Chickweed Water Chickweed Water Chickweed Water Chickweed
Habit
Flower
Sepals shorter than petals
Leaf


Greater Stitchwort      Stellaria holostea

Native. A common spring flower of both shady and sunny, grassy banks, especially along roadsides and in churchyards and a spectacular site in suitable places when flowering in profusion during April. Absent from drier, disturbed areas such as Breckland and Fenland. Flowers April to June.

Greater Stitchwort Greater Stitchwort Greater Stitchwort Greater Stitchwort
Habit
Habit
Flower
Leaves


Lesser Stitchwort      Stellaria graminea

Native. Widespread and quite common in damp but free-draining, grassy places. Flowers May to July. Easily overlooked before flowering, due to its slender stems and leaves which get 'lost' among taller grasses. Older plants have well-branched flowerheads which become top-heavy and flop over.

Lesser Stitchwort Lesser Stitchwort Lesser Stitchwort Lesser Stitchwort
Young spring growth
Mature plant
Flower
Leaf


Bog Stitchwort      Stellaria alsine

Native. Widespread but not particularly common, usually in damp grassland and often where drainage is poor such as in cattle-trampled areas by waterwaysor damp hollows. Flowers May to June. Flowers have the five petals so deeply cut and divergent that each petal half is usually closer to its neighbour than its other half, giving the flower a distinctive, green-striped look. Sepals much longer than petals.

Bog Stitchwort Bog Stitchwort Bog Stitchwort Bog Stitchwort
Habit
Flower
Flower
Leaf


Marsh Stitchwort      Stellaria palustris

Native. Widespread but uncommon to rare, in species-rich fen habitats. Flowers May to August. Similar to Lesser Stitchwort but petals a little longer and broader and leaves with a waxy bloom.

Marsh Stitchwort Marsh Stitchwort Marsh Stitchwort Marsh Stitchwort
Habit
Flower
Flower
Leaf