It’s latin name means ‘in the midst of little stars’ but you do have to look closely to find the stars.

Chickweed Stellaria media

Chickweed is one of my favourite weed/herbs. I like it’s unassuming ways, which bely a plant of many talents, for medicine, food, & soil health. It’s a hardy little plant, apparently found all over the World, including Asia, Europe & even Northern Arctic regions.

It’s common names include Kohukohu, (Maori) Chick Wittles, Mischeivious Jack, Skirt Buttons, Adder’s Mouth, Mirren & Starweed.

Identification:

  • Chickweed has small, oval leaves, with pointed tips, in opposing pairs. Soft green.
  • It grows from a central, fibrous root.
  • Young plants grow flat to the ground, as they mature they grow in a more vertical manner, often using a neighbouring plant for a leg up.
  • The tiny white flowers, consist of 5 deeply cut petals, which appear at first glance to be 10 petals. These are backed by large, green hairy sepals, which enhance the starry effect.
  • The flowers are borne, singly on slender stems,arising from the leaf nodes, & in small clusters at the growing tips.
  • The oval seed pods hang down, surrounded by the sepals. The pods have little teeth, which close up in wet weather & open in fine conditions to release the seeds, which are dispersed by the wind, or simply drop to the ground.
  • Chickweed has bare stems, except for a single line of fine hairs, which run from node to node, moving around the stem 90 degrees at each intersection. This is a great way to confirm that the plant you have, is indeed Chickweed, so take the time to have a good look.
  • Rain & dew surplus run down the hairs, to the next pair of leaves & so on, just like water, down a chain hung from the spouting.
  • Chickweed exhibits, what is quaintly called ‘the sleep of plants’ ie. it closes it’s upper leaves protectively around the young buds at night.

Growth Habits: Chickweed is an annual, usually completing it’s life cycle at the beginning of Summer in warm districts. It’s seeds lie dormant until cooler, damper conditions prevail. The exception being areas of permenant shade, where it will grow all year round.

Soil Conditions: Chickweed indicates a good amount of working organic matter on the soil surface, but less at deeper levels. Perhaps an area that gets covered with grass clippings, which patially break down. It is found in abundance in market & home gardens, & in a wide variety of soil types.

Properties: Chickweed is rich in a number of elements including: copper, iron,magnesium,manganese,aluminium, silicon,zinc, calcium, cobalt, phosphorus, & potassium. Also vitamins B6 & B12

Medicinal uses: Described as cooling & demulcent, (soothes & protects the digestive tract,) carminative (relieves wind,) expectorant (loosens coughs,) & laxative….you know what that is!

A herb tea or ’tisane’ made by pouring a cupful of boiling water over a handful of fresh leaves, taken over the course of a day, will help to relieve fevers, infections & inflammations, lung, kidney & bladder problems. This is not to say you should stop taking any medication you may be on.

Externally the same tea can be used as a poultice to draw out splinters & infected wounds. A pad of cottonwool, soaked in the brew will help to ease sore & tired eyes, styes, conjunctivitis, & inflamed or irritated eyes.

Bathing with the tea will soothe itching from bites & stings, allergic reactions & the misery of chicken pox & measles rashes. An ointment made with Chickweed will  have the same uses. See our Plantain & Chickweed Salve. Below ; a basket of Chickweed ready to be turned into oil.

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