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Fleshy Stitchwort

Stellaria crassifolia

  • Name also: Fleshy Starwort
  • Family: Pink Family – Caryophyllaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Sometimes loosely tufted.
  • Height: 10–25 cm (4–10 in.). Stem limp (var. minor) or ascending–erect (var. paludosa), sparsely branched, glabrous. Sometimes with bulbils.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), white, 5–8 mm (0.2–0.3 in.) wide; petals 5, approx. 4 mm (0.15 in.) long, slightly longer than sepals, deeply 2-lobed. Sepals 5, glabrous, with membranous margins. Stamens 10. Gynoecium syncarpous, with five styles. Inflorescence sparse–flowers solitary; subtending bracts green, glabrous.
  • Leaves: Opposite, stalkless. Blade narrowly ovate–lanceolate–elliptic, quite thick, glabrous, with entire margin, green.
  • Fruit: Egg-shaped, light brown–dark brown, 4–5 mm (0.15–0.2 in.) long capsule splitting into 6 lobes.
  • Habitat: Fens, fen meadows, meadows, springs, waterside meadow shores that are prone to flooding, seashore kelp banks.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

The Finnish habitat of fleshy stitchwort’s most common form, (var. paludosa), stretches from southern Ostrobothnia and Kainuu to places in the north along the coast of the Bay of Bothnia and central Lapland. It gravitates towards the most richly nutritious areas of shoreside meadows that sometimes flood – it is pointless looking for it on the barren archipelago. The species grows inland on rich shores near springs and above all on the fens that remain in northern Finland. The species’ favoured nutritious broad-leaved birch forests have disappeared because of the rapid increase in drainage ditches. Fleshy stitchwort (var. paludosa) is assumed to have spread to Finland after the Ice Age from the east and north. The species spreads not just by seed but also by the bulbils that appear in its axils and at the end of its shoots in the autumn.

In its main habitat in the north, a separate coastal form of fleshy stitchwort (var. minor) grows along the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia. It is critically endangered. Compared to their northern relatives, southern plants are more limp, more tufted, and they have narrower leaves and smaller flowers. Fleshy stitchwort (var. minor) grows in Finland along the most northerly parts of the Baltic Sea, and it has probably arrived from the opposite shore in Estonia. Its typical habitats are decomposing, nitrogenous seaweed banks. The eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, changes in the dampness of the shore and the decrease in shoreside grazing casts a shadow over the future prospects of the species. Even if there is no immediate threat, a random factor can always seal the fate of a small stand. Probably nobody has clarified if the minor variation grows among fleshy stitchwort stands in the north.

Saltmarsh starwort (S. humifusa) also grows casually along the coast of the Bay of Bothnia, probably after having been spread there by migrating birds. Good differentiating marks are saltmarsh starwort’s often only one-flowered stems, its clearly larger flowers, its blunt sepals, and the shorter internodes on its stem.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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