Cerastium velutinum Raf.

Prairie Chickweed

Cerastium velutinum plant

Family - Caryophyllaceae

Habit - Taprooted perennial, sometimes rhizomatous.

Stems - Erect or ascending from a sprawling base, to 40 cm, branched, densely pubescent with both glandular and nonglandular hairs.

Leaves - Opposite, simple, entire, sessile, 2.0-6.5 cm long, spatulate to narrowly ovate, usually bluntly pointed, pubescent.

Cerastium_velutinum_leavesLeaves.

Cerastium_velutinum_leaves2

Inflorescence - Flowers in open panicles, the stalks 1.2-3.4 cm long, 2-4 times as long as the sepals, erect or ascending, at fruiting usually hooked near the tip, densely pubescent with both glandular and nonglandular hairs, only the uppermost bracts with narrow, thin, white to translucent margins, the others green and herbaceous.

Cerastium_velutinum_showy
Missouri's showiest Cerastium?

Flowers - Sepals 5, 4.5-8.5 mm long, narrowly elliptic, sharply pointed, green with membranous margins, densely pubescent with stalked glands, these not extending past the sepal tips. Petals 5, 10-15 mm long, 2 times as long as the sepals, deeply 2-lobed (1/4-1/3 of the way) at the tip. Stamens 10. Styles 5.

Cerastium_velutinum_calyxCalyx.

Cerastium_velutinum_CorollaFlower.

Fruits - Cylindrical capsules 10-14 mm long, about 2 times as long as the sepals, curved. Seeds 0.8-1.2 mm wide, the surface tuberculate, brown.

Cerastium_velutinum_fruitImmature fruit.

Flowering - April - June.

Habitat - Streambanks, forest openings, pastures, roadsides.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - Cerastium arvense.

Other info. - Plants in the genus Cerastium are usually small and weedy looking, but this is an exception. It is probably the showiest member of the genus in Missouri and certainly the largest-flowered. It is found mostly in the eastern Ozark region of the state. Its range in the U.S. is very limited. There are populations in Missouri, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, but it absent or considered rare everywhere else. This is a beautiful plant and would make a good garden subject.

C. velutinum has in the past been considered a subspecies of C. arvense; however, the two species apparently do not hybridize in the wild and are usually easily distinguished. Many Missouri specimens formerly assigned to C. arvense have recently been redetermined as C. velutinum. Plants found in Missouri belong to the subspecies velutinum. The subspecies villosissimum (Pennell) J.K. Morton is endemic to serpentine outcrops in Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. It differs in its denser, broader, more persistent leaves with more dense, shaggy pubescence.

Photographs taken at Silver Mines Recreation Area, Madison County, MO, 3-19-2012, 4-3-2016, and 4-13-2017; and at Daniel Boone Conservation Area, Warren County, MO, 4-17-2012 (SRTurner).



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