Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

Notwithstanding its weedy appearance and habits, this is one of the native chickweeds in Illinois. It is a rather floppy plant with small white flowers. Nodding Chickweed can be distinguished from other chickweeds (Stellaria spp., Cerastium spp.) by the shape of its leaves, diffuse inflorescence, and structure of its flowers. In particular, the pedicels of its flowers are rather long (1" in length or more) and divergent, while its flowerbuds and seed capsules nod downward. Among the Mouse-Eared Chickweeds (Cerastium spp.), Nodding Chickweed has rather long and narrow leaves. Some authorities consider the more western Cerastium brachypodum to be a variety of Nodding Chickweed, or Cerastium nutans obtectum. This latter species (or variety) tends to have more hairy leaves and its pedicels are shorter (less than 1" in length).
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This annual plant is 4-16" tall, usually forming a tuft of leafy stems that are ascending to sprawling. These stems are branched at the base near the crown of the plant, otherwise they are unbranched. Individual stems are light green, terete, and glandular-hairy. Pairs of opposite leaves occur along these stems (typically at intervals of 1-2½"). These leaves are ¾-2" long, 5-9 mm. across, and elliptic, oblong-lanceolate, or oblong-oblanceolate in shape. The leaf margins are smooth (entire) and slightly ciliate. The leaf surfaces are medium green and either sparsely short-pubescent or hairless. Each leaf has a prominent central vein. The upper stems terminate in either cymes or compound cymes of flowers (usually the latter); these cymes are dichotomously branched and variable in size. Each terminal branch of the inflorescence typically has 3 flowers with divergent slender pedicels up to 1¼" long. While the flower buds are nodding, the flowers are more erect. Similar to the stems, the branches and pedicels of each inflorescence are light green, terete, and glandular-pubescent. At the base of each pair of branches in an inflorescence, there is a pair of leafy bracts up to ¾" and 5 mm. across. These bracts are lanceolate in shape and they lack membranous margins. The flowers are up to ¼" across while they are in bloom. Each flower has 5 white petals with notched tips, 5 green sepals, an ovary with 5 styles, and 10 stamens (usually). The sepals are lanceolate in shape with membranous margins and short-pubescent; they are about 3-5 mm. long. The petals are the same length or a little longer than the sepals. The blooming period occurs from mid-spring to early summer, lasting about 1 month. Usually, only a few flowers are in bloom at the same time. Sometimes cleistogamous flowers that fail to open are produced. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by cylindrical seed capsules that become 8-12 mm. long at maturity. Like the flowerbuds, they tend to nod downward. Mature seed capsules are membranous, light tan, longitudinally veined, and often slightly curved; they are more than twice as long as the sepals. Each seed capsule has an open rim at its apex with 10 tiny teeth. Each seed capsule contains several tiny seeds about 0.5 mm. in length. The seeds are obovoid, somewhat flattened, brownish, and minutely tuberculate (warty). The root system system consists of a shallow spreading taproot.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Nodding Chickweed is occasional to locally common in most areas of Illinois. Habitats include floodplain woodlands, streambanks in wooded areas, ravines and ledges along streams, gravel bars along rivers, weedy meadows, nursery plots, and moist waste areas. Nodding Chickweed occurs in both natural areas and human-mediated environments. In natural areas, it tends to occur in places where there is some disturbance by the action of water (e.g., soil erosion or deposits of gravel).
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Plants annual, slender, finely glandular-pubescent (often per-ennial and tomentose in var. obtectum), with slender taproot. Stems erect, simple or branched at or near base, sometimes with straggling, nonflowering basal shoots, 10-50 cm, softly pubes-cent, often with a few long, flex-uous, woolly hairs at proximal nodes, glandular and somewhat viscid distally; small axillary tufts of leaves usually absent. Leaves marcescent or not, sessile; blade oblanceolate to spatulate in proximal leaves, becoming lanceolate to linear-lanceolate in distal leaves, occasionally elliptic, 10-60 × 3-15 mm, apex acuminate to acute, softly pubescent and glandular, sometimes tomentose. Inflorescences rather open, 3-21(-40)-flowered cymes, ultimately widely branched; bracts herbaceous, lanceolate, glandular-pubescent. Pedicels ascending, sharply deflexed at apex in fruit, 5-20(-35) mm, usually 1-3 times as long as sepals in flower, elongating to 5 times as long as sepals in fruit, longer than capsules, glandular-pubescent and viscid. Flowers: sepals ovate-lanceolate, 4-6 mm, outer sepals herbaceous or with narrow margins, inner with margins ca. as wide as herbaceous center, apex broadly acute to obtuse, glandular-puberulent, hairs shorter than sepal tips; petals oblanceolate, sometimes absent, 3-6(-8) mm, shorter to 1.5 times longer than sepals, apex 2-fid; stamens 10; styles 5. Capsules cylindric, curved, (9-)10-12(-13) mm, 2-3 times as long as sepals; teeth 10, erect, margins convolute. Seeds golden brown, 0.5-0.8 mm diam., shallowly tuberculate; testa not inflated. 2n = 34, 36.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Nodding Chickweed is occasional to locally common in most areas of Illinois. Habitats include floodplain woodlands, streambanks in wooded areas, ravines and ledges along streams, gravel bars along rivers, weedy meadows, nursery plots, and moist waste areas. Nodding Chickweed occurs in both natural areas and human-mediated environments. In natural areas, it tends to occur in places where there is some disturbance by the action of water (e.g., soil erosion or deposits of gravel).
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Associations

Faunal Associations

The flowers are cross-pollinated by honeybees, Halictid bees (Halictus spp., Lasioglossum spp.), small butterflies, Syrphid flies, and other flies (Robertson, 1928). Both nectar and pollen are available as floral rewards. The caterpillars and cutworms of various moths are known to feed on chickweeds (Stellaria spp., Cerastium spp.). These moth species include Haematopis grataria (Chickweed Geometer), Lobocleta ossularia (Drab Brown Wave), Agrotis venerabilis (Venerable Dart), Hyles lineata (White-Lined Sphinx), Feltia jaculifera (Dingy Cutworm), Xestia badinodis (Spot-Sided Cutworm), and Xanthorhoe ferrugata (Red Twin-Spot). Vertebrate animals also feed on these plants to some extent. Various sparrows and other granivorous songbirds eat the seeds, while deer, rabbits, and domesticated farm animals (cattle, horses, sheep, & pigs) occasionally browse on the foliage.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Flower-Visiting Insects of Nodding Mouse-Eared Chickweed in Illinois

Cerastium nutans (Nodding Mouse-Eared Chickweed) introduced
(Most insects suck nectar; some short-tongued bees collect pollen and some flies feed on pollen, as noted below; observations are from Robertson)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn fq

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Halictus confusus sn cp fq, Halictus rubicunda sn, Lasioglossum imitatus sn, Lasioglossum versatus sn cp

Flies
Syrphidae: Eristalis anthophorina sn, Helophilus fasciatus sn fq, Helophilus latifrons sn fq, Melanostoma mellinum sn, Sphaerophoria contiqua sn, Toxomerus marginatus fp; Bombyliidae: Bombylius major sn; Tachinidae: Tachinomyia panaetius sn; Calliphoridae: Lucilia illustris sn

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Phyciodes tharos sn; Pieridae: Colias philodice sn

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cerastium nutans

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full sun to light shade and moist conditions. Nodding Chickweed is not particular about soil. Most growth and development occurs during the spring when the weather is cool and moist, after which the foliage dies down.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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