Spurreys, Knawels, Ruptureworts and Allies

Sand Spurrey Annual Knawel Smooth Rupturewort Procumbent Pearlwort

What are they?

This may at first seem a variable bunch of plants, but all are members of the campion family (Caryophyllaceae) and all are small, ground-hugging species. Many of them are easily overlooked as either their flowers or their leaves (or sometimes both!) are inconspicuous and don't immediately draw the eye.

Where are they found?

Many species are annuals of open, disturbed ground, sandy tracksides or weeds of urban environments, including walls. Some are saltmarsh plants.

Identification

Habitat and then leaf shape will help to narrow your search, followed by flower and petal size and petal colour.



Corn Spurrey      Spergula arvensis

A distinctive plant of acidic, sandy soils and often found in great abundance in unsprayed corners of root crop fields. Flowers June to August. The brilliant white flowers above slender, succulent leaves in arable farmland habitats is distinctive.

Corn Spurrey Corn Spurrey Corn Spurrey Corn Spurrey
Habit
Flowers
Leaves
Fruit


Greater Sea-spurrey      Spergularia media

Widespread in coastal saltmarshes and saline, muddy and sandy places. Flowers June to September. Flowers 10-12mm across (occasionally a little less), very pale pink, almost white. Seeds with a circular 'wing'. More closely tied to saline habitats than Lesser Sea-spurrey and a common component of saltmarsh plant communities.

Greater Sea-spurrey Greater Sea-spurrey Greater Sea-spurrey Greater Sea-spurrey
Habit
Flower
Flower
Leaves


Lesser Sea-spurrey      Spergularia marina

Widespread in coastal saltmarshes and saline, muddy and sandy places. Also spreading inland along the edges of salted roads. Flowers June to September. Flowers 5-8mm across, pale pink. Seeds with a circular 'wing'. In coastal habitats, this species is generally found a little higher up the saline gradient than Greater Sea-spurrey, being more typical of drier saltmarsh where species such as Red Fescue take over from wetter marsh dominated by cord-grass and more succulent saltmarsh plants.

Lesser Sea-spurrey Lesser Sea-spurrey Lesser Sea-spurrey Lesser Sea-spurrey
Habit
Flower
Stem and leaves
Stem and leaves


Sand Spurrey      Spergularia rubra

A native of dry, sandy heaths where it can be common along well-trodden tracks. Flowers June to September. Flowers pink, small but quite showy.

Sand Spurrey Sand Spurrey Sand Spurrey
Habit
Flower
Stem and leaves


Procumbent Pearlwort      Sagina procumbens

Native. Very common throughout the region, especially so in urban environments where it is abundant as a pavement weed. Flowers May to September. Flowers petalless, the four green sepals opening conspicuously. A mat-forming, almost moss-like, perennial plant whose stems trail and root at the nodes. Flowers appear at the ends of these trailing stems.

Procumbent Pearlwort Procumbent Pearlwort Procumbent Pearlwort Procumbent Pearlwort
Habit
Flower
Leaves
Seed capsules


Slender Pearlwort      Sagina filicaulis

Native. Very common throughout the region, especially so in urban environments where it is abundant as a weed of walls and paving. Flowers May to August. Flowers petalless, the four green sepals opening conspicuously and becoming red-tinted in fruit. A tiny, slender, easily-overlooked annual that begins with a basal rosette of leaves which soon withers, leaving the flowers borne on slender, upright, non-rooting stems. There has been much confusion between this species and Annual Pearlwort with the two long regarded as subspecies of a single species (the present form being Sagina apetala ssp. erecta). This has resulted in poor recording of the two taxa, but this appears to be the species most often found in urban environments, with Annual Pearlwort mostly confined to areas of open, sandy ground on heaths and similar places.

Slender Pearlwort Slender Pearlwort Slender Pearlwort Slender Pearlwort
Habit
Habit
Seed capsules
Seed capsule


Annual Knawel      Scleranthus annuus

Native. Once far more common and widespread but now much reduced due to soil enrichment and most likely to ber found in the sandy soils of Breckland or the Suffolk Sandlings. Flowers June to August. Flowers petalless, the four green sepals opening conspicuously and bearing a whitish edge, the white being only half as wide as the green part on the back. An annual species with no woody base and no non-flowering stems at flowering time.

Annual Knawel Annual Knawel Annual Knawel Annual Knawel
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Leaves


Perennial Knawel      Scleranthus perennis

Native; endangered, with the subspecies prostratus being endemic to East Anglia. Once known from the Norfolk coast as well as Breckland, by the 1960s, this species had been lost to Norfolk and by the 1980s was confined to just three sites in Suffolk. Recent recovery programmes have increased the number of plants and it now occurs at a handful of Breckland locations. Flowers June to August. Flowers petalless, the four green sepals opening conspicuously and bearing a whitish edge, the white being nearly as wide as the green part on the back. A perennial species with obvious woody base and some non-flowering stems at flowering time.

Perennial Knawel Perennial Knawel Perennial Knawel Perennial Knawel
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Leaves


Four-leaved Allseed      Polycarpon tetraphyllum

Native in extreme south-west England, this species is a very rare, non-persistent introduction as a weed of dry, sandy or gravelly places, or cracks in paving. Flowers June to August. Flowers greenish appearing petalless but actually with very short petals. Flowers similar to those of knawels but leaves distinctive, being broad and often in whorls of four. A low, creeping species that is small and easily overlooked but may increase in the region and should be looked for.

Four-leaved Allseed Four-leaved Allseed Four-leaved Allseed Four-leaved Allseed
Habit
Habit
Leaves
Seed capsules


Smooth Rupturewort      Herniaria glabra

Very rare nationally and as a native now confined to just a few sites in the Norfolk and Suffolk Brecks and in Lincolnshire. A plant of bare, sandy or gravelly ground which, despite its rarity, can be very locally common if conditions are right. Flowers July to August. Flowers greenish appearing petalless but actually with very small, greenish petals. Flowers tiny and inconspicuous, but tight heads of developing fruits can catch the eye on yellowish stems trailing close to the ground.

Smooth Rupturewort Smooth Rupturewort Smooth Rupturewort Smooth Rupturewort
Habit
Habit
Flower
Flowers


Hairy Rupturewort      Herniaria hirsuta

Recorded in Norfolk as a casual introduction in 1917 and 1945 but not since. Flowers July to August. A prostrate annual of disturbed, sandy or gravelly ground; very similar to Smooth Rupturewort but the entire plant is covered in obvious hairs and it has a generally more greyish-green look to it.

Hairy Rupturewort Hairy Rupturewort Hairy Rupturewort Hairy Rupturewort
Habit
Flowers
Flower buds
Leaves