Cerastium brachypetalum Pers.

Gray Mouse-Ear Chickweed


CC = *
CW = 5
MOC = 17

© SRTurner

Family - Caryophyllaceae

Habit - Annual forb.

Stems - Ascending to erect, to 35 cm, usually branched toward the tip, pubescent with long, silvery hairs, these sometimes mixed with or replaced by glandular hairs toward the tip.

Cerastium_brachypetalum_stem2.jpg Stems and nodes.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Opposite, simple, entire, sessile, lacking axillary clusters of leaves. Leaf blades 0.5-2.5 cm long, spatulate (some basal leaves) or elliptic to ovate, angled to a bluntly or sharply pointed tip.

Cerastium_brachypetalum_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Cerastium_brachypetalum_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Cerastium_brachypetalum_leaves.jpg Pressed leaves.

© DETenaglia

Inflorescence - Flowers in open panicles, the stalks 0.6-1.6 cm long, these usually 2-3 times as long as the sepals, erect or spreading, at fruiting sometimes appearing hooked near the tip, densely pubescent with glandular hairs, the bracts with herbaceous, green margins.

Cerastium_brachypetalum_inflorescence2.jpg Inflorescence structure.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Sepals 5, 3-5 mm long, lanceolate, green, usually with membranous margins, angled to a bluntly or sharply pointed tip, densely pubescent with nonglandular and sometimes also glandular hairs, these extending past and somewhat obscuring the sepal tips. Petals 5, 2.0-3.5 mm long, about 2/3-3/4 as long as the sepals, shallowly 2-lobed at the tip, the veins usually not apparent. Stamens 10. Styles 5.

Cerastium_brachypetalum_sepals.jpg Calyces.

© SRTurner

Cerastium_brachypetalum_flower.jpg Flower.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - Cylindrical capsules, 6.0-8.5 mm long, about 1.5 times as long as the sepals, slightly curved. Seeds 0.4-0.5 mm wide, the surface tuberculate, light brown.

Cerastium_brachypetalum_fruit.jpg Fruit and pedicel.

© DETenaglia

Cerastium_brachypetalum_fruit2.jpg Fruit.

© SRTurner

Flowering - March - May.

Habitat - Lawns, fields, pastures, roadsides, railroads, glades, prairies.

Origin - Native to Europe.

Lookalikes - Several other species of Cerastium, and to a lesser extent, Stellaria. Differentiation requires attention to fine details.

Other info. - To judge from collection data, this species is less common in Missouri than some other members of the genus. Currently, the majority of collections are from the southwestern portion of the state, with a few sprinkled records in the east. The U.S. distribution is similarly scattered and sporadic, mostly in the southeastern quadrant of the country. Since the plant is weedy in appearance and generally inconspicuous, it may be substantially undercollected. The species is recognized by long, silvery hairs on many parts of the plants, inflorescence bracts which are entirely green, and the open, uncrowded inflorescences. When growing in sunny areas, the plant typically has a distinct grayish appearance. In shady areas, the grayish appearance is mostly absent.

Many species of Cerastium look alike and can be difficult to differentiate. One key character important for identification is whether the uppermost inflorescence bracts have thin, translucent margins. A common error is to mistake the flower sepals for the bracts. Since nearly all Cerastium species have translucent sepal margins, this will often lead to a mistaken identification. In C brachypetalum, the bracts are green and herbaceous throughout, whereas the sepals, as in most Cerastiums, have papery margins. See the diagram below. Other characters important for identification include hair length and glandularity, and the length of the fruit stalks. Often, both flowers and fruits must be examined for a confident identification. Fortunately, populations of Cerastium will frequently have both present.


© SRTurner

Photographs taken off Lee Rd 10, Lee County, AL., 3-20-06 and 3-22-06 (DETenaglia); also at Danville Conservation Area, Montgomery County, MO, 5-8-2018, and Otter Slough Conservation Area, Stoddard County, MO, 4-22-2019 (SRTurner).