Latin name: Stellaria media

Family:  Caryophyllaceae, pink family

Common name: common chickweed
Life cycle:  winter annual, reproduces by seed or by stems rooting at internodes.
Habit: Common chickweed is prostrate, and only grows upward by growing on top of itself to form small mounds.
Foliage:  Foliage is opposite, simple, and ovate to elliptical.  Foliage is generally glabrous (without hairs), although the petioles are hairy, and sometimes the base of the leaf is as well.
Flower:  Flowers are interesting.  They have 5 petals, each so deeply bi-lobed that it appears to have 10 petals.  Petals are white.  Flowers occur in clusters at the terminal end of shoots.
Stems:  Stems are uniquely pubescent, in that the hairs generally occur in one or two straight rows.  Stems root where nodes make contact with soil.

Seedlings:  Cotyledons are light green in color, and 4 times longer than wide.  First true leaves are much broader than cotyledons.

Look alikes:  mouseear chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum) or scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis).

Notes:  One interesting thing about common chickweed is that it is reported to be a nitrate accumulator.  Also, it generally germinates around November and matures by March or April.  It rarely lives through the summer, as it does not do well in heat.  Based on these characteristics, perhaps chickweed could be used as a catch crop over the winter, where we allow it to grow and accumulate any unused nitrate in the soil.  Then till it in during the Spring when that nitrate can be re-released into the soil for plant uptake.

If you are interested in trying this alternative type of crop rotation, contact me and perhaps we can set up a trial.

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