Plants

Common Chickweed

Stellaria media

Susanne Nüsslein-Müller Susanne Nüsslein-Müller

Almost everyone is familiar with Chickweed from their own garden. While the vigorous herb can become a nuisance, it is also a delicious wild vegetable and a very versatile medicinal plant. We take a closer look at Stellaria.

Growth type
  • biennial or short-lived
Growth height (from)
from 5 cm to 10 cm
Growth characteristics
  • flat growing
Flower color
  • white
Flowering time (month)
  • February to November
Flower shape
  • Uniflorous
  • disc-shaped
Leaf color
  • green
page format
  • broad ovate
  • pointed
Fruit shape
  • Capsule
Fruit characteristics
  • edible
  • Self-seeding
Light
  • sunny to semi-shade
Soil type
  • loamy
Soil Moisture
  • fresh to humid
Lime compatibility
  • lime-tolerant
Nutrient requirements
  • nutrient-rich
Humus
  • rich in humus
Decorative or utility value
  • medicinal plant
Toxicity
  • non-toxic
Winter Hardness
  • hardy
Garden style
  • Pharmacy Garden
  • natural garden
Bee Friendly
bee friendly plant

Habitat

Chickweed (Stellaria media), also known as Common Chickweed, is a native, mostly annual plant. Its other names include chickenwort, craches, maruns, and winterweed. Stellaria media belongs to the species-rich genus Stellaria (stitchwort) and the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae). Chickweed is very common and grows on ruderal land, in fields, vineyards, gardens, and on paths and banks.

It actually grows anywhere that has sufficient nutrients. As according to Ellenberg, the plant is a strong nitrogen indicator. It is also classified as a partial shade plant, growing on both neutral and slightly acidic soils. In terms of soil moisture, Chickweed grows in dry to fresh soils. It is a dominant member of the root crop fields community. And it is very diverse, forming different geographically limited subspecies.

Sources

Stellaria media is truly cosmopolitan. The adaptable plant is found around the world in temperate climate zones. It was originally limited to Europa and Asia. Chickweed occurs anywhere from flat plains to Alpine regions at altitudes of 7000 feet. The plant is not considered endangered because it is so widespread.

Propagation and Growth

As an annual plant, Chickweed reproduces by seed. The plant sets seed all year round, producing new seedlings again and again. The tiny seeds of Stellaria media can even germinate at temperatures just above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds are released when the fruit is ripe and carried away by ants.

Common Chickweed

Whether in the wild or the garden: Common Chickweed prefers nutrient-rich soils in light shade

Growth

Common Chickweed grows with mostly procumbent shoots that are up to 16 inches long and ramify strongly. New roots are easily formed where the shoots touch the ground. This means that Chickweed spreads like a lawn over time. The root system is shallow. Those who weed the plant tend to tear out the main shoot, just a few days later new growth sprouts from the roots. The stems are round with a single line of hairs. It is extremely easy to identify Chickweed because the line of hairs on the stems is so typical and unique.

Leaves

The small, broadly ovate to pointed leaves of Stellaria media are oppositely arranged on the shoots. The lower leaves have stalks, while further up, the leaves sit directly on the stem. The leaves are around 0.4 inches long and 0.2 inches wide. They take up different positions during day and night.

Flowers

The small star-shaped white flowers of chickweed are stalked and sit on the ends of shoots individually or in pairs. They have five very hairy green sepals and five divided white petals. The nectar-bearing disc-shaped flowers are hermaphroditic. They have five stamens and three styluses. The flowers are primarily pollinated by wild bees and honey bees. However, they self-pollinate most of the time. The flowers close at night and when it rains. Flowering is between February and November. This is also one of the reasons why Chickweed spreads so profusely.

Fruit

Chickweed forms capsules that are 0.12 to 0.20 inches long and sit on the pedicel slightly curving downwards. When the capsules are ripe, they burst open into several parts, dispersing the rounded, reddish brown seeds. They are about 0.04 inches in size and have a knobby surface.

Location

Stellaria media prefers to grow in slightly shaded locations. However, the plants can be found in all almost areas of the garden, except in full shade.

Soil

Chickweed grows on nitrogen-rich soils; the soil should not be too wet and can also be loamy.

Ecological value

The wild herb attracts various wild bees and the flowers are also visited by some hoverflies and thrips. However, Chickweed is not visited by too many insects on the whole. As the name suggests, Chickweed is a popular fodder plant for birds. Chickens, other fowl, and ornamental birds like budgies and canaries enjoy nibbling on the fresh green leaves and seeds. Chickweed seeds are therefore available in stores as fodder for pets.

Wild herb salad with Chickweed

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is considered to be a herb and medicinal plant. The plant is used in salads or for tea

Use as a medicinal plant

Stellaria media has been a widely used medicinal plant since the Middle Ages. In those days, it was often used as a broth, stock, or a fatty ointment for all kinds of skin conditions and also lung diseases. Chickweed contains compounds that stimulate digestion and metabolism, and has a strengthening, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and detoxifying effect. This makes it a particularly versatile medicinal plant. The entire plant can be used for tea, either fresh or dried.

Chickweed contains many compounds including saponins and flavonoids. The plant is rich in vitamins like vitamin C, minerals like potassium, and silicic acid. As all parts of Chickweed are non-toxic and it has a pleasant mild, nutty taste, it is also well-suited to wild herb salads, wild herb soups, and herb dips.

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