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Greater Stitchwort

Rabelera holostea

  • Name also: Addersmeat (USA)
  • Latin synonym: Stellaria holostea
  • Family: Pink Family – Caryophyllaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 20–30 cm (8–12 in.). Stem ascending–erect, 4-edged, glabrous, glossy.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), white, 1.5–2.5 cm (0.6–1 in.) broad; petals 5, 2-lobed half-way, 12–15 mm (0.48–0.6 in.) long, 1.5–twice as long as sepals. Sepals 5, glabrous–sparsely haired, narrowly membranous margins. Stamens 10. Gynoecium syncarpous, with 3 styles. Inflorescence a 2-branched cyme; subtending bracts green, without membranous margins.
  • Leaves: Opposite, stalkless, spreading, 3–8 pairs. Blade narrowly ovate, with entire margins, rigid, margins and central vein rough.
  • Fruit: Egg-shaped, lime green, 6-valved, 6–8.5 mm (0.24–0.34 in.) long capsule.
  • Habitat: Broad-leaved forests, grove-like forests, forest margins and clearings, coppices, hedgerows, parks.
  • Flowering time: May–June.

Greater stitchwort overwinters with the help of stems that have fallen to the ground. The outer tissue dies, and by the end of the winter it is hard to believe that there is any life left in the darkened stems. The buds begin to sprout however at the end of April and the plant starts to flower at the same time as wood anemone starts to fade. Seeds develop well too, but the first days of the new plant’s life when they germinate are very precarious. Greater stitchwort spreads best through its fast-growing, branched rootstock and often forms impressive, dense patches.

Greater stitchwort thrives best in a semi-shaded clearing on the edge of a forest or meadow, but thanks to its powerful vegetative propagation it survives even if all the trees are cut down and bushes take over. The species is native to southern Finnish coastal broad-leaved forests. There are still fragmented stands north of Hämeenlinna that are regarded as wild. Still further north – around Kainuu – it can be seen in parks or yards, but it has been transplanted there from the south or even from abroad. The impressively-blooming plant has also been transplanted within its natural habitat, and it has also probably spread when its seeds have got mixed in with uncleaned grass seed.

Other species from the same family

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