By in Science

Common chickweed

Common chickweed (Stellaria media) lives up to its name in all respects. It is a weed that is the bane of many gardeners, it can be used to feed chickens, and it is extremely common!

It has branched, leafy stems that sprawl across the ground, although the flowering stems can reach 14 inches (36 centimetres) high. The lower leaves grow on stalks whereas the higher ones are stalkless.

The flowers have five tiny white petals that have deep notches, thus producing ten-pointed “stars” that account for the botanical name “Stellaria”. One reason for chickweed’s success is that it flowers, and produces seeds, right through the year, thus allowing it to spread when other weeds and plants are dormant.

Common chickweed also has a remarkable defence against drought. A line of hairs runs down one side of each stem. These catch drops of dew and conduct them down the stem until they reach a pair of leaves. Here the water collects, with any excess running further along the stem. These reservoirs can then be absorbed by the plant when other sources of water are absent.

Although chickweed is despised by many gardeners and growers it does have the use mentioned above as food for chickens and cage-birds, and it can also be eaten by humans as a salad crop.

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Image Credit » Hugo.arg. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.

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markgraham wrote on January 29, 2016, 10:34 AM

Even if it is a weed it is kind of pretty and would make good ground cover in various areas that nothing else seems to grow.

MegL wrote on January 29, 2016, 1:39 PM

That's a handy defence against drought for the plant, no wonder it spreads well.