Common chickweed (Stellaria media)

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Common chickweed in flower
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Common chickweed fact file

Common chickweed description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumAnthophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderCaryophyllales
FamilyCaryophyllaceae
GenusStellaria (1)

Common chickweed is a very common weed (3). It is extremely variable in its appearance, but generally it has a very slender tap root and greatly branching leafy stems, which lie along the ground (2). The lower leaves vary in size from 3 to 20 mm in length, they are oval in shape and have long stalks; the upper leaves tend to be larger (up to 25 mm in length) and lack stalks. Many small, white flowers are produced; the stamens have reddish-violet anthers(2).

Size
Leaf length: 3-20 mm (2)
Stem length: 5-40 cm (2)
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Common chickweed biology

Chickweed occurs either as an annual species or as a short-lived perennial(3), and produces several generations a year, each one flowering after just 5 weeks of growth (1). It can remain green and often in flower throughout winter (4). The flowers are visited by many small flies and bees (2). A single plant may produce around 2,500 reddish-brown seeds, which can remain viable in the soil for 25-40 years (1).

Common chickweeds is highly prized as a food for poultry and cage-birds, and even for humans in small quantities as a vegetable of stir-fries and salads (4).

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Common chickweed range

Widespread and common throughout Britain, common chickweed is a cosmopolitan species (2); it has become naturalised in North America, and is now found around the world (3).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Common chickweed habitat

Found in a wide variety of disturbed habitats, particularly in nutrient-rich areas (3). It is a notorious weed of gardens and cultivated areas, and may also occur on walls, new plantations, sewage works and manure heaps, and is a typical feature of coastal strand-lines (3). It has been found in pre-Neolithic deposits, and so it is not dependent on human disturbance for survival (1).

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Common chickweed status

Extremely common and widespread (3).

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Common chickweed threats

This species is not threatened.

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Common chickweed conservation

Not relevant.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Find out more

For more information on British plants and their conservation see Plantlife- the wild plant conservation charity:
http://www.plantlife.org.uk/
Visit the website of the Botanical Society of the British Isles at:
http://www.bsbi.org.uk

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Annual
Lives or grows for just one year.
Anthers
Part of the stamen (the male reproductive organ of a flower) that produces pollen. (See http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/ksheets/pdfs/flower.pdf for a fact sheet on flower structure)
Neolithic
A cultural period of the Stone Age, which began around 10,000 B.C. The Neolithic is characterized by the making of polished stone tools and the development of agriculture.
Perennial
Plants that live for at least three seasons; after an initial period they produce flowers once a year.
Stamens
The male reproductive organ of a flower, it is made up of an anther (the pollen-producing organ) and a filament (stalk). (See http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/ksheets/pdfs/flower.pdf for a fact sheet on flower structure).
Tap root
A large central root.
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References

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (Feb 2003): http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
  2. Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G. & Moore, D.M. (1987) Flora of the British Isles. 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  3. Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A. & Dines, T.D. (2002) The New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Mabey, R. (1996) Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London.
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Image credit

Common chickweed in flower  
Common chickweed in flower

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