Cerastium fontanum (Mouse-ear Chickweed)
|Also known as:||Big Chickweed|
|Life cycle:||annual, short-lived perennial|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; lawns, gardens, roadsides, woodland edges, fields, waste areas, disturbed soil|
|Bloom season:||May - September|
|Plant height:||6 to 18 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Early flowers are held tightly in the upper leaf axils but open into loose branching clusters with age, on ½ inch hairy stalks. Each flower is about ¼ inch across with 5 deeply notched white petals, usually 10 stamens with light yellow to greenish or even reddish blue tips (anthers) and a round green ovary in the center with 5 filament-like styles at the top. The 5 sepals are about as long as the petals, lance shaped with fine hairs on the outer surface. Opposite leafy bracts attend the base of the flower stalks. Hairs are occasionally glandular and sticky.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are opposite, toothless, stalkless, and somewhat variable in shape, the lower ones spatula to egg-shaped, 1/3 to 1 inch long and ¼ to ½ inch wide, the upper leaves becoming more lance-elliptic to oblong. Stems may be erect but typically sprawl along the ground, rooting at the nodes, with short sterile branches crowded around the base, the longer flowering branches barely ascending towards the tip. Both stems and leaves are covered with fine hairs.
This is the “other” mat-forming chickweed and companion to Common Chickweed (Stellaria media), of lawn weed infamy; both are now widespread throughout North America. While the flowers are similar, Mouse-ear Chickweed is easily distinguished by its fuzzy leaves and stems, where Common Chickweed has hairless leaves and a single row of hairs along the stems. There are 2 subspecies of C. fontana in North America, with subsp. vulgare, sometimes known as Cerastium vulgatum, found in Minnesota.
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Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Ramsey and Anoka counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?