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Stellaria media, chickweed, is an annual flowering plant in the carnation family Caryophyllaceae. It is native to Europe, but naturalized in many parts of North America. It is used as a cooling herbal remedy, and grown as a vegetable crop and ground cover for both human consumption and poultry. It is sometimes called common chickweed to distinguish it from other plants called chickweed. Other common names include chickenwort, craches, maruns, and winterweed. The plant germinates in autumn or late winter, then forms large mats of foliage.

Common chickweed
Kaldari Stellaria media 01.jpg
Flowers of the common chickweed
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Caryophyllaceae
Genus: Stellaria
S. media
Binomial name
Stellaria media

Alsine media L.
Stellaria Apetala Ucria ex Roem.

Stellaria media - MHNT



The plants are annual and with weak slender stems, they reach a length up to 40 cm. Sparsely hairy, with hairs in a line along the stem. The leaves are oval and opposite, the lower ones with stalks. Flowers are white and small with 5 very deeply lobed petals. The stamens are usually 3 and the styles 3.[1] The flowers are followed quickly by the seed pods. This plant flowers and sets seed at the same time.

Distribution and identificationEdit

Stellaria media is widespread in North America, Europe and Asia. There are several closely related plants referred to as chickweed, but which lack the culinary properties of plants in the genus Stellaria. Plants in the genus Cerastium are very similar in appearance to Stellaria and are in the same family (Caryophyllaceae).[2] Stellaria has fine hairs on only one side of the stem in a single band and on the sepals.[2][1] Other members of the family Caryophyllaceae which resemble Stellaria have hairs uniformly covering the entire stem. It usually has 3 styles[2]:459[1], 3-5, occasionally 8 stamens[2], variously stated as 8 stamens by Keble Martin[3] and (1-)3(-8) by Clapham, Tutin and Warburg.[4]:89


Very common in lawns, meadows, waste places and open areas.[5][6]


The larvae of the European moth yellow shell (Camptogramma bilineata), of North American moths pale-banded dart (Agnorisma badinodis) or dusky cutworm (Agrotis venerabilis) or North American butterfly dainty sulphur (Nathalis iole) all feed on chickweed.


Whole plant

In both Europe and North America this plant is common in gardens,[7] fields, and disturbed grounds where it grows as a ground cover.


As foodEdit

Stellaria media is edible and nutritious, and is used as a leaf vegetable, often raw in salads.[8] It is one of the ingredients of the symbolic dish consumed in the Japanese spring-time festival, Nanakusa-no-sekku.


Stellaria media contains plant chemicals known as saponins, which can be toxic to some species when consumed in large quantities. Chickweed has been known to cause saponin poisoning in cattle. However, as the animal must consume several kilos of chickweed in order to reach a toxic level, such deaths are extremely rare.

In folk medicineEdit

The plant has medicinal properties and is used in folk medicine. It has been used as a remedy to treat itchy skin conditions and pulmonary diseases.[9] 17th century herbalist John Gerard recommended it as a remedy for mange. Modern herbalists prescribe it for iron-deficiency anemia (for its high iron content), as well as for skin diseases, bronchitis, rheumatic pains, arthritis and period pain.[10] Not all of these uses are supported by scientific evidence.[11] The plant was used by the Ainu for treating bruises and aching bones. Stems were steeped in hot water before being applied externally to affected areas.[12]



Stellaria is derived from the word 'stellar' meaning 'star', which is a reference to the shape of its flowers. Media is derived from Latin and means 'between', 'intermediate', or 'mid-sized'.[19]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Parnell, J. and Curtis, T. 2012. Webb's An Irish Flora. Cork University Press. ISBN 978-185918-4783
  2. ^ a b c d Stace, C. A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles (Third ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521707725.
  3. ^ Keble Martin, W. (1965). The Concise British Flora in Colour. London, U.K.: George Rainbird Ltd. ISBN 0718140281.
  4. ^ Clapham, A.R.; Tutin, T.G.; Warburg, E.F. (1981). Excursion Flora of the British Isles (3 ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521232902.
  5. ^ Hackney, P. (ed) 1992. Stewart and Corry's Flora of the North-east of Ireland. Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen's University of Belfast. ISBN 0-85389-446-9(HB)
  6. ^ Webb, D.A. Parnell, J. and Doogue, D. 1996. An Irish Flora. Dundalgan Press (W.Tempest) Ltd. ISBN 0-85221-131-7
  7. ^ Neltje, Blanchan (2005). Wild Flowers Worth Knowing. Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.
  8. ^ Stellaria media at Plants for a Future
  9. ^ Hensel, Wolfgang (2008). Medicinal plants of Britain and Europe. London: A&C Black. ISBN 9781408101544.
  10. ^ Wiest, Renee. "Chickweed". Good Health Herbs. Retrieved 15 Dec 2015.
  11. ^ Howard, Michael (1987). Traditional folk remedies : a comprehensive herbal. London: Century. p. 119. ISBN 0-7126-1731-0.
  12. ^ Batchelor, J. and Miyabe, K. (n.d.). Ainu economic plants. 1st ed. 1893.
  13. ^ Studies on the Chemical Constituents From Stellaria media (II). Huang Yuan, Dong Qi, Qiao Shan-Yi, Pharmaceutical Journal of Chinese People's Liberation Army, 2007-03 (abstract) (Article in Chinese)
  14. ^ Dong, Q; Huang, Y; Qiao, SY (2007). "Studies on chemical constituents from stellaria media. I". Zhongguo Zhong yao za zhi = Zhongguo zhongyao zazhi = China journal of Chinese materia medica (in Chinese). 32 (11): 1048–51. PMID 17672340.
  15. ^ Hu, Y.M.; Wang, H.; Ye, W.C.; Qian, L. (2009). "New triterpenoid fromStellaria media(L.) Cyr". Natural Product Research. 23 (14): 1274–8. doi:10.1080/14786410701642532. PMID 19735039.
  16. ^ Weng, A; Thakur, M; Beceren-Braun, F; Gilabert-Oriol, R; Boettger, S; Melzig, MF; Fuchs, H (2012). "Synergistic interaction of triterpenoid saponins and plant protein toxins". Planta Medica. 78 (11). doi:10.1055/s-0032-1320271.
  17. ^ Böttger, Stefan; Melzig, Matthias F. (2011). "Triterpenoid saponins of the Caryophyllaceae and Illecebraceae family". Phytochemistry Letters. 4 (2): 59. doi:10.1016/j.phytol.2010.08.003.
  18. ^ Bittrich, V.; Amaral, Maria Do Carmo E. (1991). "Proanthocyanidins in the testa of centrospermous seeds". Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 19 (4): 319. doi:10.1016/0305-1978(91)90020-Z.
  19. ^ Gledhill, David (2008). "The Names of Plants". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521866453 (hardback), ISBN 9780521685535 (paperback). pp 253, 361

Further readingEdit

  • Everitt, J.H.; Lonard, R.L.; Little, C.R. (2007). Weeds in South Texas and Northern Mexico. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press. ISBN 0-89672-614-2
  • Tilford, Gregory L. (1997). Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West. Mountain Press Publishing Company. ISBN 0-87842-359-1.

External linksEdit