Welsh, Tafod yr edn. - Irish, Fluigh. - French, Mouron. - German, Huhnerdarm. - Spanish, Alsine.
Caryophyllece. Stellaricce. Stellaria.
These pretty little plants, very happily take their Latin name from stella, a star, in allusion to the silvery stars of their blossoms. But their English appellation is not so pleasing; though it refers to the very excellent, and very desirable property of curing stitches in the chest or side, which this plant, on not very evident grounds, is supposed to possess. The name of chickweed, or, "chicken-wort," is founded on the alleged increase in the number of eggs laid by hens which are supplied with this plant in their food. But why the pretty and well-known white star of our hedges in early spring should be called deadmen's bones, in the north of England, is not easily ascertained. The Welsh name, Tafor yr edn, signifies bird's tongue, and evidently refers to the form of the leaves.
The great stitch-wort, which is depicted in the accompanying woodcut, is a popular remedy amongst village children, for the sting of a bee, as is also the 8. media, or common chickweed. This last plant, which, regardless alike of heat and cold, sunshine and storm, grows, flowers, ripens, and sows its seeds, the whole year through,* is a most excellent and wholesome vegetable, which, when boiled, can scarcely be distinguished from spinach; it is very commonly used as a "pot-herb," in broth and gruel; though a friend has described to me the alarm she once felt at having, in her childish days of experimenting, administered some broth thus flavoured, to an old woman, who was made violently ill by the compound; but so common is the use of it, that this was probably an accidental circumstance.
Great Stitch-wort. - Stellaria Nolostea.
* This circumstance may be perhaps accounted for, by the curious manner in which, as the chill of night comes on, the leaves fold together in pairs, enclosing the tender germ of the young shoot at their axil; while the upper pair but one are larger than the others, and sufficiently so to cover over the last pair, and so to secure the end of the branch.
The remaining British stitch-worts, are the pure white-flowered wood-plant (S. nemorum); the least stitch-wort (S. graminea), which so abounds on dry heaths and pasture lands; the marsh stitch-wort (S. glauca); the minute-flowered bog stitch-wort (S. uliginosa); the Alpine stitch-wort (S. ceras-toides), which has its most southern British boundary in the Bredalbane mountains, and which should perhaps more properly take its place with S. ce-rastia; and the many-stalked S. scapigera, a very marked and peculiar plant, which grows in the neighbourhood of Loch Ness, Dunkeld, etc.