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Overview

Comprehensive Description

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This adaptable plant is probably the most common Cerastium sp. (Mouse-Eared Chickweed) in Illinois. Compared to the similar Stellaria spp. (Chickweeds), Mouse-Eared Chickweeds usually have more pubescent leaves and their flowers have 5 styles, rather than 3. Among the many Mouse-Eared Chickweeds that occur in Illinois (most of them are introductions from Eurasia), Common Mouse-Eared Chickweed is the only one with a perennial habit and it is often larger in size. It also blooms later in the year (typically during the summer), while the annual species of Mouse-Eared Chickweed bloom primarily during the spring. A scientific synonym of Common Mouse-Eared Chickweed is Cerastium vulgatum.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This introduced perennial plant is tufted at the base, producing multiple stems up to 1½' long, although they are usually about one-half of this length or less. These stems are ascending to widely spreading; they are green or purple, terete (round in cross-section), and pubescent. The opposite leaves are up to 1" long and 1/3" across (or a little larger); they are variably shaped, including lanceolate-ovate, oval-oblong, or broadly oblanceolate. The leaves are pubescent, smooth along the margins, and sessile at the base; they have a prominent central vein on the upper surface. The stems often terminate in small cymes (flat-headed clusters) of 1-5 small flowers; both the peduncles and pedicels of these cymes are pubescent. At the base of each cyme, there is a pair of leafy bracts with thin translucent margins. Each flower is up to ¼" across, consisting of 5 green sepals, 5 white petals with notched tips, 10 stamens with pale yellow anthers, and 5 styles; some plants may produce flowers with fewer than 10 stamens. The sepals are lanceolate, pubescent, and translucent along their margins; they are about the same length as the petals. The blooming period occurs intermittently from late spring to early fall and may last several months for individual plants. Each flower is replaced by a cylindrical seed capsule with 10 small teeth along its upper rim. Each seed capsule containing several small seeds. The seeds are somewhat flattened and minutely warty or pebbly. The root system is mostly fibrous. This plant reproduces primarily by reseeding itself; it can also form vegetative offsets when the nodes of the lower stems develop rootlets while lying on moist ground.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Common Mouse-Eared Chickweed occurs in every county of Illinois; it is quite common (see Distribution Map). This species was introduced from Eurasia. Habitats include fields, pastures, lawns, gardens, roadsides, areas along railroads, areas adjacent to buildings, vacant lots, degraded grassy meadows, and waste areas. Areas with a history of disturbance provide preferred habitats.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Jilin, Liaoning, Nei Mongol, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Xizang, Yunnan, Zhejiang [cosmopolitan weed].
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Herbs short-lived perennial or annual, 15--40 cm tall. Stems caespitose or simple, suberect; sterile stems decumbent; flowering stems pilose and/or glandular pubescent all round. Basal leaves ovate, obovate-lanceolate, ovate-spatulate, or spatulate, 5--13 × 3--10 mm, both surfaces pilose, base attenuate into a petiole; cauline leaves subsessile, ovate, oblong, or narrowly ovate-oblong, 1--3(--4) × 0.3--1(--1.2) cm, both surfaces pilose or pubescent, margin densely ciliate, apex acute. Cyme terminal, spreading, lax, up to 40-flowered; bracts leaflike, ovate, 3--5 mm, both surfaces glandular pubescent. Pedicel slender, 0.5--2.5 cm, densely glandular pubescent, recurved after anthesis. Sepals oblong- or ovate-lanceolate, 5--6 mm, abaxially densely glandular pubescent, margin membranous or narrowly so. Petals obovate or obovate-oblong, shorter than to 2 × as long as sepals, apex 2-lobed. Stamens shorter than petals. Ovary ovoid, ca. 2 mm. Styles 5, linear, slightly longer than ovary. Capsule cylindric, 8--10 mm, ca. 2 × as long as calyx, 10-toothed, teeth usually recurved. Seeds brown, usually 0.4--0.8 mm in diam., tuberculate. Fl. Apr--Jun, fr. May--Jul.
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Description

Plants perennial (rarely annual), tufted to mat-forming, often rhizomatous. Stems: flowering stems erect from decumbent base, branched proximally, 10-45 cm, softly pubescent, eglandular with straight hairs; nonflowering shoots, when present, produced proximally, decumbent, rooting at nodes, branched, 5-20 cm, often subglabrous with alternating lines of eglandular hairs; small axillary tufts of leaves usually absent. Leaves not marcescent; blade 10-25(-40) × 3-8(-12) mm, densely covered with patent to ascending, colorless, long, eglandular hairs; leaves of flowering shoots in distant pairs, sessile, blade elliptic to ovate-oblong, apex subacute; leaves of sterile shoots pseudopetiolate, often spatulate, blade oblanceolate, apex obtuse. Inflorescences lax, 3-50-flowered cymes; bracts lanceolate, reduced, herbaceous, eglandular-pubescent, distal often with narrow, scarious margins. Pedicels somewhat curved distally, 2-10(-20) mm, longer than sepals, densely pubescent with patent, eglandular, rarely glandular hairs. Flowers: sepals ovate-lanceolate, 5-7 mm, margins narrow, apex acute, scarious, pubescent with eglandular, rarely glandular, hairs; petals oblanceolate, 1-1.5 times as long as sepals, apex deeply 2-fid; stamens 10, occasionally 5; styles 5. Capsules narrowly cylindric, curved, 9-17 mm, ca. 2 times sepals; teeth 10, erect, margins convolute. Seeds reddish brown, 0.4-1.2 mm, bluntly tuberculate; testa not inflated, tightly enclosing seed. 2n = 122-152, usually 144.
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Type Information

Syntype for Cerastium vulgatum var. peruvianum A. Gray in Wilkes
Catalog Number: US 9309
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): Wilkes Explor. Exped.
Year Collected: 1838
Locality: Baños, Peru, South America
  • Syntype: Wilkes, C. 1854. U.S. Explor. Exped. 15: 120.
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Holotype for Cerastium vulgatum var. andinum A. Gray in Wilkes
Catalog Number: US 9310
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): Wilkes Explor. Exped.
Year Collected: 1838
Locality: Rio Huallaga, margen Derecha del; Balsa Probana; dtto. Tocache Nuevo, Mariscal Cáceres, San Martín, Peru, South America
  • Holotype: Wilkes, C. 1854. U.S. Explor. Exped. 15: 120.
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Common Mouse-Eared Chickweed occurs in every county of Illinois; it is quite common (see Distribution Map). This species was introduced from Eurasia. Habitats include fields, pastures, lawns, gardens, roadsides, areas along railroads, areas adjacent to buildings, vacant lots, degraded grassy meadows, and waste areas. Areas with a history of disturbance provide preferred habitats.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Forests, forest margins, mountain slopes, hilltop grasslands, fields, sandy soils, rock crevices, roadsides; 100--4300 m.
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Associations

Faunal Associations

The flowers attract various bees and flies; these insects suck nectar primarily, although some Syrphid flies feed on the pollen and some of the smaller bees (e.g., Halictid bees) collect pollen for their larvae. The caterpillars of several moths feed on the foliage of Chickweeds (Cerastium spp., Stellaria spp.), including Agrostis venerabilis (Venerable Dart), Haematopis grataria (Chickweed Geometer), and Lobocleta ossularia (Drab Brown Wave). Sparrows and other small granivorous songbirds eat the seeds of Chickweeds. Because Common Mouse-Eared Chickweed is one of the larger Chickweeds that grows during the summer, the Cottontail Rabbit nibbles on its foliage occasionally. Photographic Location
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Flower-Visiting Insects of Common Mouse-Eared Chickweed in Illinois

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Foodplant / sap sucker
nymph of Berytinus crassipes sucks sap of Cerastium fontanum
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / sap sucker
adult of Neides tipularius sucks sap of Cerastium fontanum

Foodplant / sap sucker
adult of Peritrechus lundi sucks sap of seed of Cerastium fontanum

Foodplant / sap sucker
Rhopalus parumpunctatus sucks sap of seed of Cerastium fontanum
Other: major host/prey

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cerastium fontanum

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 12
Specimens with Barcodes: 32
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: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full sun to light shade and moist to slightly dry conditions. This plant can tolerate a broad range of soils, including those that contain loam, clay-loam, and pebbly or gravelly material. Common Mouse-Eared Chickweed is more often found in fertile soil than other Cerastium spp. (Mouse-Eared Chickweeds). It is a larger plant that can tolerate more competition from other kinds of vegetation.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Wikipedia

Cerastium fontanum

Cerastium fontanum, also called Mouse-ear chickweed, Common mouse-ear, or Starweed is a species of mat forming perennial, or rarely, annual plant. It is native to Europe but introduced elsewhere. Mouse-ear chickweed's identifying characteristics are tear-shaped leaves growing opposite one another in a star pattern, hairy leaves, and small white flowers. Mouse-ear chickweed typically grows to 4"-8" tall vertically and spreads horizontally along the ground via the formation of roots wherever the stem falls over and contacts the ground.

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References

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Notes

Comments

Cerastium fontanum is a highly variable and complex species. It often has been reported as C. vulgatum Linnaeus, an ambiguous name; see discussion under the genus.
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