This is a very large family containing some of our most beautiful flowers. They are herbs, agreeing in having smooth-edged leaves growing oppositely and in having the plant stem usually swollen at its junction with the leaves. The flowers have either four or five petals and usually twice as many stamens.
Although this is an introduced weed, so hardy and prolific is it that probably it now exceeds in numbers, any of our indigenous plants. It grows profusely about dooryards and along roadsides everywhere. The flowers are small, so tiny that they are often unnoticed, even by those who take pleasure in feeding the leaves to the pet canary. The corolla consists of five white, very deeply cleft petals, and the calyx of the same number of larger and longer green sepals. The leaves are ovate, small, opposite, on small stems about the length of the leaves. The plant stem is either simple or branched and ranges from 2 to 10 in. in height.
A. Chickweed. Stellaria media.
B. Stitchwort. Stellaria longifolia.
Long-Leaved Stitchwort (S. Longifolia) has larger flowers than the last, but the petals are very narrow and so deeply cleft as to appear to be ten in number instead of five. The sepals are nearly but not quite as long as the petals. The stem is weak and usually supported by surrounding grasses or vegetation. The leaves are small, linear and pointed at both ends. Common everywhere in wet places.
Mouse-Eared Chickweed (Cerastium Arvense) has much larger and broader petals with rounded lobes, giving them something the appearance of mouse ears. Sepals short; leaves lanceolate; stem downy, 4 to 10 in. high. Common in dry or rocky places.
A. Corn Cockle. Agrostemma githago. B. Ragged Robin. Lychnis Flos-cuculi.
The Corn Cockle is very closely related to the Campions (genus Lychnis); in fact it was formerly classed with them and is now by some authors. It is an annual with an erect and rather downy stem; it branches but slightly, each branch being terminat-td by one or two large handsome magenta flowers with an expanse of one to two inches. The calyx is densely hairy, as are also the lanceolate leaves that grow oppositely on the stem. The stem is swollen at the leaf junctions and is weakened at that point so that it breaks quite readily; this is one of the characteristics of most of the members of the pink family. In Europe, this is often called the Corn Flower; it represents one of the typical plants of the harvest fields. In this country we find it as an escape from gardens or in waste places near grain fields.