Stars of the Hedgerow

Greater stitchwort (1) Credit E.Ó Murchú

The Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) or Tursarraing mhór in Irish is now scrambling along the hedgerows and brightening up their shady bases (1).  It can also be seen in woods, gardens and waste places.  April, May and June are its flowering months. It bears five pure white, star like flowers which are split along the centres with all ending in a green blotch.  The ten stamens in each flower, five on the outside and five on the inside, with their golden anthers are another attractive feature (2). The flowers are visited by bees, butterflies, flies, beetles and moths for their nectar and pollen.

Flowers (2)

The leaves are thin, grass-like and stalkless and grow in opposite pairs along the stems.  There are tiny indentations on the edges of these which the weak stems use to haul their way up and along the hedge. These stems are brittle and square shaped and all end with a flower.
Some people add these as well as the leaves and flowers to salads because all are edible.
It was used for curing stitches in the side and muscular pains in the olden days.  It was also for healing broken bones perhaps because its stems are so brittle.
The fruit is a capsule which can be heard popping open when ripe to disperse the seeds.  The large seeds can be collected and sown in spring or early autumn in a native hedgerow in the garden.  They can also be sown in a seed tray and pricked out later to be sown in pots.
It is sometimes called ‘Star of Bethlehem’, ‘Snapdragon’ and ‘Easter Bell.