Common chickweed (Stellaria media)

KingdomPlantae
PhylumAnthophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderCaryophyllales
FamilyCaryophyllaceae
GenusStellaria (1)
SizeLeaf 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.

Not relevant.

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

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

  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.