This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
This plant has been found in Interglacial beds in Great Britain. It is distributed throughout the Temperate Zone in Europe and Western Asia. The Greater Stitchwort is found in every English, Scotch, and Welsh county except Mid Lancs, Stirling, N. Perth, N. Ebudes, the Hebrides, and Shetlands. It is found at a height of nearly 2000 ft. in the Highlands.
The pretty starlike flowerets of the Greater Stitchwort are a welcome sign in early spring of the return of the flowers, and this reminder we meet with in every hedgerow or brake, where this charming wild flower grows. It is perhaps commoner in narrow straggling plantations where there is a good deal of light than in dense woodlands where this is not the case.
Perhaps to compete better with other deciduous herbaceous plants the Stitchworts have adopted the grass habit. The stem is more or less erect or ascending, prostrate at the base, and at the nodes is brittle, and hairy above, angular, the angles rough, slender. The stem is more stout upwards, and below is supported by surrounding herbage as a rule. The leaves are stalkless, rigid, united below, lance-shaped, with a long narrow point, fringed with hairs, narrow just above the base to an acute point. The margin is rough, toothed.
The flowers are large, few, white, satiny, on slender ultimate stalks, in a panicled cyme, leafy. The bracts are leafy. The petals are half-divided to the base, and twice as long as the obscurely 3-veined or nerveless sepals. The flowers are rarely double, and the petals may be irregularly lobed. The capsule is round, as long as the calyx.
Some petals may be wanting occasionally. Greater Stitchwort is known also as Satin flower.
The flowers bloom from April to June. The plant is perennial, increasing by division. The height is 1-2 ft.
The mode of pollination in the Greater Stitchwort is similar to that of the Grassy Stitchwort. The flowers are much more conspicuous, however, and larger, though it is true that they grow less in the open, but they are visited by a variety of insects. The flowers are bisexual. The honey-glands are yellow. They lie on the external side of the outer stamens between the petals. There is a honey-pit above, and the glands yield abundant honey, which explains the frequency of insect visits. In the ordinary course the pollination takes place in three stages. The outer ring of stamens open, standing close to the centre of the flower, and turn the anthers upwards, while the inner stamens are not yet mature. The stigmas are bent inwards. In the second stage the inner stamens open, and by this time the outer have bent back and shrivelled. The stigmas are now erect, but the papillar surfaces are turned towards each other. In the third stage the stigmas are widespreading, and in this state the flower may be self-pollinated. But with insect visits, owing to the proterandrous conditions, the flower is usually cross-pollinated.
The insects that visit it are Diptera (Empidae, Syrphidae, Muscidae), Hymenoptera (Apidae, Tenthredinidae), Coleoptera, Cedemera, Lepi-doptera (Pieris napce), Thysanoptera (Thrips).
Greater Stitchwort is dispersed by its own agency. The 6-valved capsules open when ripe, allowing dispersal by the wind.
The microfungi Puccinia arenarice and Ustilago violacea are parasitic on it.
The leaves are galled by Brachycolus stellarice. MelampsoreIla Caryophyllacearum (Witches' Broom of Silver Fir) also attacks Great Stitchwort. The beetle Cassida obsoleta, the moths Marsh Pug Eupithecia pygmceata, Gelechia tricolorella, G. maculea, Coleophora solitariella visit it, and the Hemipteron Siphonophora pisi.
Photo. B Hanley - Greater Stitchwort (stellaria Hohstea, L.)
Holosteum, Dioscorides, is from the Greek holos, all; osteon, bone; and is used by antiphrasis to express the very opposite. Stellaria is from the Latin for star.
The plant is called Adder's-meat, Adder's Spit, Agworm-flower, Allbone, Bachelor's Buttons, Easter Bell, Billy White's Buttons, Bird's-eye, Bird's-tongue, Brandy-snaps, Break-bones, Cuckoo-flower, Cuckoo-meat, Cuckoo's Victuals, Dead Man's Bones, Devil's Corn, Devil's Eyes, Easter Flower, Scurvy, Snake and Star Grass, Headache, Lady's Lint, Lady's White Petticoat, May Flower, May-grass, Milkcans, Milk Maid, Miller's Star, Moon-flower, Moonwort, Owd Lad's Corn, Pick Pocket, Piskies, Pyxie, Shepherd's Weather Glass, Shirt Buttons, Smocks or Smock-frocks, Snakeflower, Snap grackers, Snap Jack, Snappers, Snap Stacks, Snapwort, Snow, Snowflake, Star-flower, Star of Bethlehem, Starwort, Stichewort, Stitchwort, Thunder-flower.
Such is a fair example of the multiplicity of local names for common flowers, which are not without some interest in every case.
This plant was called Stitchwort because it used to be drunk in wine with powdered acorns for pain in the side or the "stitch". It appears to have been called Thunder-flower because the unripe capsule contains air, and when pressed goes off with a bang, and children are fond of doing this. It was called Allbone on account of the jointed stems, or as explained above. The name Lady's Lint may be from the fine threads in the stalks. It is called Devil's Eye, being held in special favour by fairies, and peasants hesitated to pluck it in case they were " pixy-led ".
The Yellow Underwing hovers over it in daylight in the sunlight.
Essential Specific Characters: 55. Stellaria Holostea, L. - Stem erect, slender, rigid, rough, leaves sessile, long-keeled, acuminate, grooved, fringed, flowers white, petals twice as long as sepals, bifid, capsule globose.