Western Isles Wildflowers
Western Isles wildflowers is a collection of information about our Hebridean wildflowers including identification hints, traditional herbal uses and general plant lore.
There are lots of species of chickweed, and several very different species of plants that share the name chickweed. Common chickweed is also known as satinflower, mouse ear, starwort, starweed, tounge grass, stithchwort, star chickweed, winterweed and white bird's eye. Some of these names are also shared by other plants, so naming the chickweeds can get very confusing! Fortunately Stellaria media is probably the only chickweed called "Common chickweed".
The sepals of common chickweed (these are the green petals which make up the flower case) are hairy, and there is also a single line of hairs running down the stem. This line of hairs on the stem identifies the common chickweed from other species of chickweed.
The small white flowers of common chickweed have 5 petals. The petals are each almost completely divided into two - giving the impression of many more (particulary so as the flower is very small).
Chickweed has a long history of use as a food plant, it is quite mild of flavour, but contains saponins which are toxic. These are usually broken down in the cooking process. Saponins are the same toxins as are found in kidney beans which must be cooked for a long time to make them safe to eat, and which cause digestive problems generally when eating beans for many people.
The leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals, so taking into account the toxicity, just a few leaves are sometimes added to a salad, or cooked like spinach.
Common chickweed is a native wildflower of the Western Isles.
Photography © Suzanne Harris
Stornoway - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
19th June, 2007