Species: Stellaria media
Status: Naturalized, Considered Invasive by some, Native to Europe
Other Common Names: Common Chickweed, Chickenwort, Maruns, Winterweed
Chickweed thrives best on the property between late winter and late spring when it’s coolest and the ground is its moistest. When there is a hot, dry summer, it used to disappear entirely, but in more recent years, since the soil is improving under a nice layer of naturally occurring compost, the chickweed can squeak by until fall. In that case, it survives only under the really big shady trees, among thick plant growth and lots of leaf litter.
The name Stellaria media means little star in the midst, and the family name Caryophyllaceae is derived from a Greek word meaning carnation.
Chickweed is edible. I’ve added it to salads and it has a pleasant, mellow flavor.
These flowers are tiny. You’d probably not notice them unless you were intentionally looking at the ground to see what is around, as I was when I first spotted them.
Although some sources call this an invasive plant, I have not witnessed it crowding out other plants, except one or two years out of the past ten years it really flourished at the base between two very large, shady trees (an Oak and an Elm), and then after that, a native/introduced plant, the Green Poinsettia, took over much of that location.
I find that various wild plants become prominent and “invasive-seeming” at times, and then they will acquiesce for awhile, or some pop up on different parts of the property in different years and not repeat the same activity in the same place. Some soil restoration experts say that wild plants will thrive where and when they are needed in order to balance the health of the soil. In observing what has happened on our acre over the past decade in letting all the wild plants grow and thrive as they please, I have found that not only is a nice layer of compost building up from all the spent plant growth and leaf litter, but no single species takes over entirely. It’s as if they all hold each other in check, or perhaps the soil has a chance to gain sufficient benefit from each plant (because none of them are being eradicated) and therefore doesn’t support the overgrowth of any single species.
If you’re going to harvest Chickweed for eating, it is important to be sure it is not a look-alike, like Scarlet Pimpernel, Tropical Chickweed (Drymaria cordata), or Mouse-eared Chickweed. Scarlet pimpernel is poisonous, and although the other two chickweeds mentioned are edible, they are not edible in the same way and must be cooked in particular ways. The Common Chickweed featured in this post can be eaten raw, but it’s best to read up on how to identify it properly. An important characteristic to look for is a barely noticeable line of hairs on a smooth, round stem.
Resources For More Information On This Species
Merriwether’s Guide to Foraging Texas (http://www.foragingtexas.com/2008/08/chickweed.html)
Plants For A Future (https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Stellaria+media)
Green Deane’s Eat The Weeds (http://www.eattheweeds.com/chickweed-connoisseurs-2/))
Book: “Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods From Dirt To Plate” by John Kallas