One of the prettiest and most characteristic sights of Spring is the mass of brittle, grass-like stems and leaves of the Greater Stitchwort, crowned by the numerous flowers of gleaming white clear-cut stars. It starts life as an erect-growing plant, but is soon fain to lean against the other constituents of the hedgerow as its stems elongate but grow no stouter. It is a perennial plant, and its four-angled stems make their appearance very early in the year. The long, narrow, rigid, sharp-pointed leaves are arranged in pairs, which are more or less connected at their bases. The flowers are produced in a panicle of a few flowers only, which consist of five almost nerveless sepals, five petals which are as long again as the sepals and cleft almost to the middle. They are succeeded by a globose capsule containing many seeds. There are ten stamens and three styles. Flowers April to June.

Greater Stitchwort.

Greater Stitchwort.

Stellaria holostea. - Caryophylleae. The genus Stellaria is included in the Natural Order Caryophylleae, or the Pink tribe, of which we shall have further examples.

I. The Lesser Stitchwort (S. graminea) is a similar, but much more slender plant, with exceedingly narrow leaves, smaller flowers arranged in a much-branched panicle, and with red anthers. After flowering the flower-stalks hang downwards, but afterwards rise to a horizontal position. The sepals are as long as the narrow petals, united at their bases, and have three nerves. Capsule nodding. Flowers May to July.

II. The Marsh Stitchwort (S. palustris). Smooth, with a fine bloom (glaucous). Sepals united at base, three-nerved, not so long as the petals. Flowers solitary on long stalks. Marshes and wet places. May to July.

III. The Common Chickweed (S. media), which we have already figured (plate 54 ante), is also a member of this genus. The stem trails along the ground, is very brittle and marked with a line of fine hairs up one side. The flowers are inconspicuous, on account of the sepals being longer than the petals, which are, in fact, often absent altogether. It grows everywhere, and maybe found flowering throughout the year. It has followed the Englishman wherever he has gone about the earth.

The name of the genus is from the Latin, Stella, a star, in reference to the starlike character of the blossoms.