Long-leaved Chickweed is a native perennial clump-forming plant with stems that are erect or straggling, often branched, 4-angled with smooth surfaces. It can grow to 20 inches long.
The leaves are opposite, stalkless, yellowish-green to medium green, usually no more than 2 inches long, linear, narrow with a pointed tip, widest at or just beyond the middle. There is a central mid-vein. The surface is smooth but there may be some fine hair at the narrow base.
The inflorescence is a horizontally spreading terminal cyme of two or more flowers, with a pair of small green lance-shaped bracts at the base of the cyme. The bracts have a dry, thin margin.
Each flower, on a long stalk, is 5-parted with white petals that are longer than the 5 green pointed sepals. Petals are deeply cleft into lobes which curve upward and spread outward giving the look of 10 petals. There are 5 to 10 stamens with white filaments and three white styles. Anthers change color from yellow to brownish-red as pollen matures. The sepals also have dry, thin margins and weakly show 3 veins.
Seeds: Fertile flowers mature to a oval to oblong capsule that is straw-colored to blackish, containing numerous brown kidney shaped almost smooth seeds. These capsules split into 6 openings.
Habitat: Long-leaved Chickweed grows in wet meadows and woodlands, marshes and the fringes of such that have moist fertile soils with full sun. It is clump forming from the elongate rhizomes of the root system.
Names: In earlier times Long-leaved Chickweed was classified as Alsine longifolia. The current genus name, Stellaria, is from the Latin referring to 'star-like' which is a generalization of the appearance of flowers in this genus. The species name, longifolia, is commonly applied to plants with long, narrow leaves. The author names for the plant classification, 'Muhl. ex Willd.' are as follows: ‘Muhl’ is for for Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg (1753-1815) American Botanist who produced several catalogues of plants after retiring as a Lutheran pastor. His work was incomplete and amended by ‘Willd.’ who is Carl Ludwig Willdenow (1765-1812), German botanist, a founder of the study of the geographic distribution of plants. He was director and curator of the Botanic Garden of Berlin.
Comparisons: The description of the flowers is similar to that of other chickweeds, so one must look at the stems and leaves and details of the flower clusters for identification. Within this genus compare Common Chickweed, S. media, where the leaves are ovate, but the flowers look similar except in the reproductive parts. In another genus, but in the same family, is another common plant with the chickweed name - Cerastium fontanum, Mouse-ear Chickweed.
Above: While there are several flowers in a cyme, usually only one is open. Note that the 5 petals are so deeply cleft that they appear as 10.
Below: Flowers have 5 to 10 stamens with white filaments and 3 white styles. The sepals (below) are not as long as the petals, have 3 veins visible in the central green band and the edges are dry and thin.
Below: Leaves are stalkless, opposite, much longer than wide and the stem is visibly 4-angled.
Notes: Long-leaved Chickweed is indigenous to the Garden. Eloise Butler noted it growing in the bog on April 26, 1908. In April 1912 she planted another clump of the plant that she had sent to Minnesota from Malden MA where she had visited the previous winter. Martha Crone did not list the plant on her 1951 census but it has been listed on subsequent reports. The plant is found throughout North America except the states of U.S. south that range from Texas eastward to North Carolina. Within Minnesota it is very widespread with most exceptions being counties in the SW of the state.
There are 7 species of Stellaria found in Minnesota, 5 are native: S. alsine, Alsine Chickweed; S. borealis, Northern Starwort; S. crassifolia, Fleshy-leaved Starwort; S. longifolia Long-leaved Chickweed; and S. longipes, Long-stalked Chickweed. There are 2 introduced: S. graminea, Lesser Stichwort; and S. media, Common Chickweed. S. longifolia is by far the most common followed by S. media.
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"