Stellaria graminea (Lesser Stitchwort)

Plant Info
Also known as: Grass-leaved Stitchwort, Grass-leaved Chickweed
Genus:Stellaria
Family:Caryophyllaceae (Pink)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:Eurasia
Status:
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; sandy or gravelly disturbed soil; agricultural fields, roadsides, trail edges, gravel pits, waste areas
Bloom season:May - August
Plant height:10 to 20 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: UPL NCNE: UPL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Branching cluster of stalked flowers at the top of the plant, with 5 to many flowers on a branch. Flowers are ¼ to ½ inch across with 5 white petals that are deeply divided to look like 10. The 5 narrow star-like green sepals behind the petals are as long as or shorter than the petals and have 3 distinct veins. 5 to 10 stamens surround the center; the tip color may be red, yellow or brown, changing color as the plant matures.

[photo of flower cluster branching] Flower stalks are 3/8 to 1¼ inch long, slender, hairless, mostly straight and widely spreading. At the base of the stalk is a pair of small, papery bracts less than ¼ inch long and with sparse, fine hairs around the edge.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are narrowly lance-elliptic, 2/3 to 1½ inches long, up to ¼ inch wide, pointed at the tip, stalkless, toothless, hairless except for sparse hairs along the edge near the base, and have a prominent center vein. Leaves are usually (not always) widest below the middle, typically near the base. Attachment is opposite. Stems are branched, square, smooth, slender and weak, causing the plant to be less erect and more sprawling across surrounding vegetation.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is an oval capsule up to about 1/3 inch long, green or straw colored at maturity. Inside are tiny reddish brown, round to kidney-shaped seeds.

Notes:

A weedy species of roadsides, trail edges and other disturbed soils, Lesser Stitchwort most closely resembles the native and widespread Long-leaf Starwort (Stellaria longifolia), which has longer and proportionately narrower, more linear-elliptic leaves widest at or above the middle, fewer flowers in a cluster, sepals that are obscurely 3-veined, stems with rough angles, and primarily found in the moist to wet soils of marshes, lakeshores, wet meadows and woodlands. The rare Long-stalk Starwort (Stellaria longipes) is also similar but has longer leaves, is few-flowered and may be hairy on the lower stem. Note that where the leaf is widest distinguishes several Stellaria species, but those characteristics aren't always so clear-cut in the field. In this particular case, habitat can be a strong indicator, too, with Lesser Stichwort found in weedy areas where the native Stellaria species are more often in higher quality habitat. S. graminea is likely under-reported in Minnesota due to its resemblance to the more common S. longifolia.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Aitkin and Lake counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Hare Lake, Lake County.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Gary - Carlton County
on: 2019-02-18 21:58:25

This species was accidentally introduced to my land in the 1990s by seeds that came in with hay making equipment. It quickly spread to every damp open area in the hayfield and pastured spaces. For a while I thought it would be here in great abundance pretty much forever. But in the last 10 years or so it has declined and is actually hard to find now.

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