Stems: erect, pubescent with reflexed hairs, cespitose, four to eight inches high. Leaves: linear-oblong, acute, clasping; bracts small. Flowers: cymose, few-flowered; petals five, obcordate.
This is quite the prettiest and most attractive of all the Chickweeds, and will be found growing in profusion on many a sunny bank and dry meadow during the months of June and July. It is frequently called "Star of Bethlehem," and has five snow-white petals, each of which is divided at the edge. All the Chickweeds are white. Like the meek they certainly inherit the earth. In almost every part of the world their varying methods of cross and self-fertilisation have resulted in these little plants following closely in the footsteps of man's civilization. The following story is told by Sir Joseph Hooker; he says: "Upon one occasion landing on a small uninhabited island nearly at the Antipodes, the first evidence I met with of its having been previously visited by man was the English Chickweed; and this I traced to a mound that marked the grave of a British sailor, and that was covered with the plant, doubtless the offspring of seed that had adhered to the spade or mattock with which the grave had been dug."
Cerastium alpinum, or Alpine Mouse-ear Chickweed, is a silky-haired species, with whitish leaves, and large white flowers, When Dr. Sutherland went to Baffin's Bay in
1851 to search for Sir John Franklin, he found this tiny plant growing close to the icebergs. He says in his Journal: "Button Point looked as green as any English meadow, and the grass upon it was not one whit less luxuriant. The Foxtail Grass and the Chickweed (Cerastium alpinum), and hosts of other grasses and herbaceous plants, grow among the bones of animals, and are stimulated by the oil and animal matter which they contain, and by the filth which is inseparable from Esquimaux habitations, to a degree of luxuriance which no one would be willing to assign to the 73rd degree of north latitude." The scientific name is derived from Ceras, a horn, in reference to the shape of the seed-pods of some of the species.