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Weber places some species of Chickweeds in Alsinaceae, not Caryophyllaceae.
|Arenaria lanuginosa subspecies saxosa. Synonym: Spergulastrum lanuginosum subspecies saxosum. (Woolly Chickweed, Spreading Sandwort).
Caryophyllaceae (Pink Family)
Open woodlands. Summer, fall.
Arenaria lanuginosa is typically found sprawling along the ground making very loose, open mounds with 3-7 inch stems topped by bright white flowers. Stems can be much longer (to 18 inches) and the stems can be upright.
Rounded white petals are slightly longer than the pointed green sepals. Just after the flowers open the ten stamens are arched back over the petals. As the flower matures the stamens grow erect, pollen matures, and eventually the anther sacs fall. The sacs are pink, to white, to brown depending on their age. In the photograph below you can see that 5 of the 10 stamens still have their anther sacs. In the very center of the flower are the three spreading styles.
This fairly common Chickweed occurs scattered along trails through open Spruce forests. What will attract your attention are the bright white flowers.
Although most Arenaria lanuginosa in the Four Corners area are fairly uniform in their morphology, the Flora of North America indicates that this species "is morphologically diverse... and is in serous need of comprehensive study."
The Spergulastrum genus was named by Michaux in 1803 and Michaux also named this species. "Lanuginosum", from the Latin for "wool" and "full of", perhaps refers to the densely hairy leaves and stems.
Linnaeus named the Arenaria genus in 1753 and Paul Rohrbach (1846-1871) posthumously renamed Michaux's Spergulastrum lanuginosum to Arenaria lanuginosa in 1872. The Flora of North America, the Synthesis of the North American Flora, and A Utah Flora place this species in the Arenaria genus.
"Aren" is Latin for "sand" and is aptly applied because of the often sandy areas that species of this genus grow in.
Stellaria longipes subspecies longipes (Long-stalked Starwort)
Caryophyllaceae (Pink Family)
Foothills to alpine.
Meadows, moist areas. Summer, fall.
Stellaria longipes grows to a very slender four-to-eight inches tall. It enjoys open meadows, dry forests, and wet areas and thrives from the foothills to the alpine. Its leaves are narrow, cupped, and lustrous green, generally angling upward.
White flower petals are deeply cut and about twice as long as the sepals (green, behind the white petals).
As is true of Arenaria lanuginosa shown above, it is the bright white flower, not the greenery of the plant that will first attract your attention. The plants are so inconspicuous that without the flower they would be unnoticed.
The genus name, Stellaria, is Latin for "star" and was given by Linnaeus in 1753. "Longipes", a name given by John Goldie (1793-1886), is Latin for "long limbed", referring to the plants very slender stature. Click to see the very similar Stellaria longifolia.
Range map © John Kartesz,
Species present in state and native
County Color Key
Species present and not rare
Range map for Arenaria lanuginosa
Range map for Stellaria longipes