The Grassy Stitchwort has been found in deposits of Roman age. At the present day it is found in Arctic Europe, Siberia, Western Asia, as far as the Himalayas. It is common in every county in Great Britain except North Ebudes and the Hebrides. In Yorkshire it grows at an altitude of 1500 ft.

The Grassy Stitchwort is to be found on dry pastures and hedge-banks, usually where there is or has been a heath, for it is a strictly ericetal species, associated with such plants as Furze and Broom, Tormentil, Wood Betony, and other xerophilous species. Here the grass habit is most pronounced, enabling the plant to clamber up between the chevaux-de-frise of a furze bush under the best conditions. Without some such support this tall but graceful, though spreading, plant would be unable to hold itself erect. It has a square and smooth suberect stem, jointed and grooved. The leaves are linear-lance-shaped, opposite, distant, and few, smooth, but fringed with hairs and stalkless.

The flowers are numerous, small, panicled, and borne on spreading, forking flower-stalks, with learlike organs with membranous margin. The petals are narrow, as long as the 3-nerved sepals, and divided into two nearly to the base. The sepals are acute, the stamens numerous, the anthers red. The capsule is longer than the calyx, oblong, and the flower-stalks are turned down in front at first, then at right angles. The whole plant is dark-green and shining, not bluish-green. Grassy Stitchwort is 1 to 2 ft. high. The flowers last from April till August. It is a perennial plant, increasing by division.

Grassy Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea, L.)

Photo. B Henley - Grassy Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea, L.)

The 5 nectaries surround the base of the 5 outer stamens. The plant is pollinated in three stages. First of all the 5 outer stamens curve toward the centre, the anthers open first and are smothered in pollen, then they curve out and down. The inner stamens bend outwards and take their place, the anthers being still closed, and the style immature, and it is curved inwards, with the papillar surfaces turned outwards. The 5 inner stamens open before the other outer 5 have withered, but remain bent outwards. In the second stage the inner stamens wither and shrivel, the style lengthens, becomes erect, and spreads out, turning the papillar surfaces up and the curves of the papillae outwards and downwards. In the third stage, insects, if not too small, settle in the middle of the flowers, and thus are bound to touch the pollen in young flowers to reach the nectaries, or the stig-matic papillae in older ones. If insects do not visit the flower, the stigmas in curving outward touch the anthers enveloped in pollen. Volucella bombylans is a regular visitor. Whilst most plants have complete flowers, in some the stamens are not properly developed.

The seeds are dispersed by the plant itself, for the 6-valved capsule, when ripe, opens and allows the seeds to fall first round the parent plant, hence it is usually found growing in clumps like the Greater Stitchwort.

Grassy Stitchwort is a sand-loving plant and requires a sand soil, or barren ground such as that derived from granitic rocks or sandy formations.

The plant is infested by the fungi Melampsora cerastii and Ustilago violacea, and it is galled by Brachycolus stellarioe.

The second Latin name refers to the grass-like habit of the plant. Its only other English name is Starwort.

Essential Specific Characters: 56. Stellaria graminea, L. - Stem quadrangular, smooth, leaves sessile, narrow, edged with cilia, flowers small, white, petals deeply cleft, as long as the sepals, in forked panicles, bracts ciliate, rough.