Chickweed Stellaria media Greater Stitchwort S. holostea
'LITTLE STARS'- STELLARIA SPECIES
I am brittle-stemmed and slender,
But the grass is my defender.
On the banks where grass is long,
I can stand erect and strong.
All my mass of starry faces
Looking up from wayside places,
From the thick and tangled grass,
Gives you greeting as you pass.
Cicely Mary Barker
The Stellaria genus are a selection of starry-faced flowers that brighten up our waysides.
Stellaria means ‘little star’ and the white mass of flowers produced by these plants cannot fail to cheer you up unless you're too pre-occupied with calling them weeds and digging them up!
Chickweed of course needs to be kept in check in the garden but this delightful plant can be harvested as a pleasant salad crop or added to oil to make a superb ointment. This ointment made with olive oil and beeswax is a must for all those suffering with any skin complaint such as eczema and psoriasis. You can also use it for wounds as well as for swollen and inflamed tissues- a must for any home herbal kit!
Chickweed drunk as a tea can help relief bronchitis, pleurisy and rheumatism. The leaves will help cleanse the system and the plant is especially good for swellings, sprains and mumps.
Chickweed traditionally is a herb well known for its use as a poultice (a dressing for wounds) along with groundsel ( Senecio vulgaris- prized as a poultice since Saxon times!). Both herbs will help wash and soothe wounds when applied directly to them.
Chickweed is an annual, a bright green lush plant growing on cultivated rich soils. A single line of hair (good ID point) runs the full length of the stem where it acts as a gulley to collect dew for times of drought. The name chickweed comes from the fact it can be used as food for chickens, goslings and other caged birds.
The stitchworts are perennial and are more striking than chickweed as they grow more upright with larger flowers. As the name suggests they are an old remedy for stitches and other similar muscular pains in your side.
The latin word ‘holostea’ which is applied to greater stitchwort actually means ‘whole bone’ and as it is brittle stemmed it may be interpreted as a cure for brittle bones according to the doctrine of signatures ( a very old belief system that a plant has signature – a way of displaying its medicinal use often through a physical characteristic). However there is no evidence to confirm this is true.
Greater stitchwort’s Welsh name tells us its used as a herb for shingles. The plant is especially used for this complaint when mixed with wood sage and navelwort.
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Poetry of flowers
Join me to explore the flora of the British Isles on this blog. My intention is to attempt to capture the unique quality and beauty of each species of flower, tree or shrub. For every species featured I will be growing many more wildflowers to celebrate the joy of their existence, their intrinsic conservation value and bewildering array of uses. For nearly 30 years I have noted, studied and explored wildflowers in the field much to the patience of the walker beside me. To share this passion is a heartfelt plea to respect, preserve and care for all British Wildflowers no matter how common they seem.