Mouseear Chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum)
Pink Family (Caryophyllaceae)
Origin and Distribution:
Mouseear chickweed was introduced from Europe and is now common throughout the North America. It is common throughout Ohio in waste places, roadsides, woods, lawns, pastures, and abandoned cropland. It can be a troublesome weed in wheat and oat crops.
Mouseear chickweed is a creeping, mat-forming species that normally behaves as a perennial; however, it is possible for it to exist as an annual. Plants reproduce by seeds and roots growing from the nodes of stems. It tends to form dense patches.
Roots are shallow with fibrous branching from a central, but not large, taproot.
Seedlings and Shoots:
The seedlings of mouseear chickweed are hairy.
Stems are mostly prostrate, reaching upwards at the ends, and ranging from 6 inches to 2 feet in length. The stems are slender, sticky-hairy, with swollen nodes. Stems range in color from green to red-purple. In lawns, mouseear chickweed can form a mat that excludes other plants.
Mouseear chickweed leaves are oblong to spatula shaped, with smooth edges and a pointed tip. Like the stems, the leaves are covered with long clammy hairs on the upper surface and on the veins of the lower surface. Leaves are opposite (two per node) and attached directly to the stem, the leaf bases often overlapping in a shallow cup around the stem.
Mouseear chickweed flowers are small (about 1/4-inch wide), white, with five petals sometimes so deeply clefted that they can appear as 10 petals. Petals are sometimes absent. The sepals (green structures covering the closed flower) are hairy and nearly as long as the flower petals. Flowers are solitary or in small groups at the end of branches, blooming from May to October.
Fruits and Seeds:
Fruits are small, cylindrical, tan to reddish-brown pods that contain many small, brown, irregularly-knobbed round seeds.
Mouseear chickweed can be distinguished from similar species by mostly prostrate growth and hair-covered stems and leaves. Common chickweed (Stellaria media) has only a single line of hairs along the stem and thymeleaf speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia) has no hairs on leaves or stem.
Mouseear chickweed is considered a short-lived perennial that thrives in various habitats, from dry waste areas, disturbed soil, and sandy shores to moist woods and damp ground. The weed does not tolerate cultivation but persists in lawns and gardens. Germination is variable throughout the year, occurring mostly in late summer, fall and early spring. Mouseear chickweed is not drought tolerant, but can remain green even under the snow in winter.
Facts and Folklore:
Some members of the chickweed family produce flowers than never open but still produce seed.
The leaves of mouseear chickweed can be boiled and eaten as greens.