grass-like starwort (Stellaria graminea)
Alsine graminea (L.) Britt.
Stellaria graminea var. latifolia Peterm.
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of grass-like
starwort is Stellaria graminea L. This is one of the more attractive
chickweeds, particularly when it occurs in colonies, because the
attractive flowers are produced in great abundance and the foliage
is elegant and grass-like. It has a similar appearance to the native
Stellaria longifolia (long-leaved stitchwort). However, this latter
species has sepals that are without conspicuous veins or hair, and
its seeds have a smooth sur- face. Long-leaved stitchwort produces
flowers less abundantly than grass-leaved chickweed, and some of
its flowers develop from the axils of the leaves. There are many
other Stellaria spp. (Chickweeds), as well as Cerastium spp.
(Mouse-Eared Chickweeds), but they often have broader leaves
and hairier foliage.
NATIVE STATUS: Introduced, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This adventive perennial plant is about 11½' tall and largely
unbranched, except at the apex where the inflorescence occurs. The
central stem is glabrous, 4-angled, and rather weak, causing the
plant to lean over in the absence of supportive vegetation.
Leaves: The opposite leaves are up to 1½" long and 1/3" across.
They are lanceolate-linear or linear, smooth along the margins,
sessile, and glabrous, except for a few hairs near the base of the
Flowers: The central stem terminates in a dichotomously branch-
ing panicle of cymes. A pair of small green bracts occurs where the
panicle branches. Each cyme is rather floppy and consists of 1-3
flowers on slender pedicels. Each flower is about 1/3" across, con-
sisting of a corolla with 5 deeply divided white petals (which can
appear to be 10 petals), 10 stamens with brown or reddish brown
anthers, a green pistil with 3 styles, and 5 green sepals that are lance-
olate. Each sepal has 3 conspicuous veins along its outer surface,
which is also somewhat ciliate or pubescent. The petals of the flower
are longer than the sepals. An abundance of flowers is normally
Fruit/Seeds: Each flower is replaced by a straw-colored or light
brown seed capsule that contains numerous small seeds. This cap-
sule is ovoid-oblongoid in shape and open at the top, where a few
erect teeth occur along the upper rim. Each seed is oval-orbicular
and somewhat flattened; its surface is rough and pebbly.
Roots: The root system consists of a shallow taproot and rhizomes. This
plant spreads vegetatively or by reseeding itself, and often forms small
REGENERATION PROCESS: Grass-like starwort propogates it-
self by reseeding and spreads vegetatively through rhizomes.
HABITAT TYPES: It is adventive from Europe. Habitats include old
fields, grassy meadows, and roadsides. This plant competes well against
Kentucky bluegrass and similar grass species, but broad-leafed forbs have
a tendency to cast too much shade for it to flourish. Grass-like starwort is
found primarily in disturbed areas.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Typical growing conditions are full sun
and moist to mesic soil. Grass-like starwort grows quite well in loam or
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from late
spring to early summer and lasts about a month.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Grass-like starwort has a species that
has a disjunctive distribution. It is found primarily in the eastern portions
of the United States and Canada, extending west through the Ohio Valley
and into most, but not all, of the Prairie states and provinces. It is also
distributed along the Pacific far west, from California north to British
Columbia. However, it is absent from the Gulf Coast states through the
southwest, and absent from portions of the Rocky Mountain region and
some areas of the northern Great Plains.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The nectar and pollen of the flowers
attract small bees and flies primarily. The caterpillars of several moth
species feed on the foliage of Chickweeds, including Agrostis vener-
abilis (venerable dart), Lobocleta ossularia (drab brown wave), and
Haematopis grataria (chickweed geometer). Mourning doves and
various sparrows occasionally eat the seeds of chickweeds, while rab-
bits eat the foliage.
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