Common chickweed (Stellaria media)
|Size||Leaf length: 3-20 mm (2)|
Stem length: 5-40 cm (2)
Extremely common and widespread (3).
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).
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).
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).
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).
This species is not threatened.
For more information on British plants and their conservation see Plantlife- the wild plant conservation charity:
Visit the website of the Botanical Society of the British Isles at:
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- 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.
- National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (Feb 2003): http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
- Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G. & Moore, D.M. (1987) Flora of the British Isles. 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
- Preston, C.D., Pearman, D.A. & Dines, T.D. (2002) The New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Mabey, R. (1996) Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London.