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16 November 2021

Stellaria media (common chickweed)

Datasheet Types: Pest, Invasive species, Host plant


This datasheet on Stellaria media covers Identity, Overview, Distribution, Hosts/Species Affected, Diagnosis, Biology & Ecology, Natural Enemies, Impacts, Uses, Prevention/Control, Further Information.


Preferred Scientific Name
Stellaria media (L.) Vill. 1753
Preferred Common Name
common chickweed
Other Scientific Names
Alsine media L.
International Common Names
satin flower (USA)
starwort (USA)
bocado de gallina
hierba gallina
hierba pajarera
yerba gallinera
mouron des oiseaux
stellaire intermediaire
Local Common Names
ojo de gringo
yerba de canarios
yerba de los caminos
yerba del pajarero
quilloi quilloi
paperina comune
South Africa
gewone sterremur
serce dili
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)
EPPO code
STEME (Stellaria media)


Stellaria media; Flowering plant.
Flowering plant
Stellaria media; Flowering plant.
©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
Stellaria media.
Whole plant - colour illustration
Stellaria media.

Taxonomic Tree

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Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Stellaria media is the universally accepted name for this common and widespread weedy species. Chater and Heywood (1972) list three subspecies; media, postii and cupaniana, although other authorities consider that subsp. postii (Sinha, 1965) and subsp. cupaniana (Sinha, 1965; Scholte, 1978) should be included in S. neglecta. S. media exhibits a high degree of genotypic variation and chromosome numbers of 2n = 24, 28, 36, 38, 40, 42 and 44 have been reported from various parts of the world. 40, 42 and 44 are the most commonly reported numbers (Fedorov, 1969).


S. media is a weakly tufted herb; roots fibrous, shallow, the plant sometimes taking root at the prominent joints; stems much branched, erect or ascending from a creeping base, rather weak, minutely pubescent in longitudinal lines bearing a single row of hairs on alternating sides of successive nodes, 20 to 80 cm long; leaves, opposite, simple, very variable in size in different plants, smooth, or fringed with hairs near the base, ovate-elliptic, acute or shortly acuminate, 6 to 30 mm long, 3 to 15 mm wide; petiole of lower leaves 5 to 20 mm long and having a line of hairs, petioles of the highest leaf often very short or sessile; flowers solitary or in few-flowered, terminal, leafy cymes, white; pedicels nearly capillary, ascending, reflexed or recurved, frequently pubescent; sepals five, lanceolate-oblong, 3.5 to 6 mm long, blunt to acute, usually with long soft hairs; petals five, deeply cleft, white, small, shorter than sepals, two-parted or absent; stamens three to five, rarely more; single pistil with three or four styles; fruit a many seeded dry capsule, ovoid, usually a little longer than the sepals, opening by six teeth, breaking into five segments at maturity; seeds dark brown, yellowish or dull reddish-brown, nearly circular, slightly elongated toward the notch at the scar, about 1 mm across, the surface covered with conspicuous curved rows of irregular wart-like projections, marginal projections are more prominent and toothed in appearance.The seedling is a light, bright green and the cotyledons have prominent mid-veins. The petiole of the cotyledon is almost as long as the lamina, and has a few fine hairs at the base. Older seedlings have a characteristic single line of hairs along the stem.


S. media is native to Europe, but has been spread through man's activities throughout the world, and is now one of the most widespread weeds in the world (Holm et al., 1977). It occurs throughout Europe, except for the extreme north of Scandinavia and Russia (Sobey, 1981). It extends from the tropical regions of Africa, South America and Asia (Good, 1974) to the Arctic (Polunin, 1954) and sub-Antarctic islands (Walton, 1975). In the UK, it ranges in altitude from sea-level to 950 m, in Europe it reaches 2470 m and in the Himalayas to 4408 m. In the tropics, it is usually only found at higher altitudes, for example, in Colombia, it is one of the most aggressive weeds at 2600 m and grows to the same altitude in Java, Indonesia.

Distribution Map

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Distribution Table

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Hosts/Species Affected

S. media is a cosmopolitan, widespread and highly successful weedy species. It occurs in cereals, sugarbeet, vegetable and fruit crops, orchards, plantation crops and pastures. It is potentially a weed of almost any crop grown within its geographical range.

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Chater and Heywood (1972) consider the three closely related species S. media, S. neglecta and S. pallida as the 'S. media group'.S. neglecta is distinguished by the larger size of all its parts, and of the sepals in particular (5 to 6.5 mm), the number of stamens (usually 10), the seed size (1.3 to 1.7 mm), the seed surface which is dark reddish-brown, usually with slender acute tubercles, and the flowering period which is usually restricted to April to July (Sobey, 1981). It is distributed in Western, Central and Southern Europe extending to southern Sweden and southern Ukraine. Chromosome number is 2n = 22.S. pallida, also of south and central Europe, is distinguished by its slender, often filiform, stems and pale green leaves, petals which are absent or minute, seeds which are 0.6 to 0.8 mm across, pale yellowish-brown, with small blunt tubercles and its flowering period which is confined to between March and June.The genus Cerastium has a number of weedy species ('mouse-ear chickweeds' in English) with superficial resemblance to Stellaria: however, species of Cerastium have five styles (compared to three in Stellaria) and the petals are not deeply bifid.


S. media is found in cultivated fields, pastures, gardens, shady lawns, roadsides and wasteland. It is most successful in cool, moist and moderately shaded environments and, as a result, also thrives in orchards, nurseries, plantation crops and under trees and shrubs (Holm et al., 1997). In North America and Europe it declines in importance as a weed with increasing distance from coastal regions, a reflection of its preference for cooler, more humid conditions (Sobey, 1981), and is markedly more abundant in wetter summers (Lebedev, 1940). S. media may also be limited by temperature, and is rare in the lowland tropics, and at high altitudes in the colder regions of Europe. It will grow on a very wide range of substrates, but prefers moist, fertile soils with a neutral pH and good aeration. Salisbury (1961) suggests that there is some evidence that it is most aggressive on heavier soils.

Habitat List

CategorySub categoryHabitatPresenceStatus

Biology and Ecology

S. media is an annual, winter annual (capable of survival during milder winters) or sometimes perennial herb. Reproduction is predominantly by seed, although short-term vegetative reproduction by vegetative fragments can occur. The first flowers may be produced within 4-5 weeks of germination (Whitehead and Sinha, 1967), and the first mature seeds within 5-7 weeks (Salisbury, 1961). In warm areas, flowering has been observed year-round, and Goppert (1881) reported survival of plants at -10°C. S. media is highly phenotypically variable, even at a single site. Pobedimova (1929) tested the response of individuals to varying light fluxes and demonstrated that leaf size and hairiness of stems were affected. Flowering plants whose longest shoot lengths were 4 cm have been observed on gravelly paths, whilst in Scotland, UK, stem lengths up to 98 cm and leaves up to 45 mm were observed in a herring gull colony.Seed production is prolific. Champness and Morris (1948) recorded seed yields of between 5.5 and 10.8 kg/ha in pastures and arable lands, respectively, and Salisbury (1961) reported production of between 11 and 13 million seeds/ha. Germination may occur year-round, depending on conditions, with distinct peaks in the UK in spring (March to May) and autumn (Roberts and Feast, 1970). Seeds produced in differing habitats and geographical locations exhibit markedly different dormancy patterns and germination requirements. Seeds of plants from mild, maritime climates germinate relatively quickly after maturation, those from Arctic or Continental environments display little germination after 90 days, while those from Mediterranean areas need 40 to 50 days after-ripening before appreciable germination is observed. Laboratory trials have shown that germination is stimulated by moistening seeds with 0.2% potassium nitrate and keeping them in alternating temperatures between 20 and 30°C. In the field, seeds display three types of dormancy: innate (some seeds have an after-ripening requirement), enforced (seeds buried in soil remain dormant until conditions become favourable) and induced (seeds initially not possessing a light requirement can develop one during burial). This variation in germination requirement and dormancy characteristics may contribute greatly to the success of the species as a weed (Van der Vegte, 1978).Seeds have been reported to live for as long as 60 years (Evans, 1962). In a long-term experiment, buried seed of S. media displayed 91 to 97% germination after 1 year and 6 to 22% germination after 10 years, no germination was observed after 16 years (Toole and Brown, 1946). In a similar experiment, Darlington and Steinbauer (1961) found some germination after 30 years. In the field, seeds germinate on, and slightly below the soil surface (Evans et al., 1974). Very few seeds germinate from below 2 cm (Chancellor, 1964).The majority of seeds are dispersed close to the parent plant. Long-distance dispersal may be brought about by animals, and viable seed has been found in the faeces of pigs, horses, cattle, deer, sparrows, quail and magpies. Seeds may also be transported by ants and have been found in the casts of earthworms (McRill, 1974). Man has played a large part in the dispersal of this species through agricultural activities. The seed is able to survive immersion in seawater.Many aspects of the biology and ecology of S. media are reviewed in detail by Turkington et al. (1980).

List of Pests

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Notes on Natural Enemies

Turkington et al. (1980) and Sobey (1981) provide comprehensive lists of the animal feeders, parasites and pathogens of S. media, the most ecologically important of which are listed. Euphyia unangulata, Macrolabis stellariae and Stygonocoris rusticus are reported to be specific to S. media. The significance of associated aphids, nematodes, fungal pathogens and viruses is largely related to the risk of cross-contamination to crop plants and is discussed in the Economic Impact section.

Natural enemies

Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Euphyia unangulataHerbivore     
Macrolabis stellariaeHerbivore
Stygnocoris rusticusHerbivore     


S. media was considered by Allard (1965) to be one of the 12 most successful colonizing species among non-cultivated plants, and has been reported as a weed in over 50 countries worldwide. It is regularly reported as a weed of annual (cereals, oilseeds, pulses and sugarbeet) and perennial (pastures, orchards, plantations) crops. Although only a small plant it has regularly been reported as a serious or principal weed. In trials in Germany, one S. media plant/m² resulted in yield losses of 0.09, 0.07 and 0.03% respectively for winter barley, winter wheat and spring barley (Roder et al., 1989). On the basis of these results economic thresholds of 15-20, 20-25 and 55-65 plants/m² were derived for S. media in winter barley, winter wheat and spring barley, respectively. In the Netherlands 11 plants/m² reduced the yield of a sugar beet crop by 21% (Kropff et al., 1987). In mixed weed communities in a barley crop in Belgium, S. media had the greatest effect on yield, particularly where it occurred early in crop development (Van Himme et al., 1983). Similarly, correlations between S. media density and yield losses were reported in winter and spring barley, even at relatively early growth stages and when weed densities were low (Schwar et al., 1977). In trials conducted in oilseed crops in the UK, however, it was shown that densities of less than 250 plants/m² resulted in yield losses of less than 5%. More recently, attempts have been made to establish economic thresholds for the control of S. media; in linseed crops in the UK this was calculated as 40 plants/m² (Carver et al., 1997). Davies (1987) estimated that in barley, the use of herbicides, particularly for control of S. media and Poa annua, prevented losses of 7-8%. In the east of Scotland, UK, in wheat trials carried out from 1979 to 1988 with a typical mix of weeds (primarily S. media), based on a yield level of 8.28 t/ha, losses were estimated at 3.5% (Davies, 1988). In Romania, control of the predominant weeds including S. media increased average wheat yields of 3.87 t/ha by 0.9 t/ha (Chirita and Henegar, 1985).In comparative trials of weed competition and yield suppression in wheat (Farahbakhsh et al., 1987) and sugar beet (Farahbakhsh and Murphy, 1986), S. media was found to be less competitive than the grass weeds Avena fatua and Alopecurus myosuroides. In trials in winter wheat, S. media and other low growing, prostate species were found to be minor competitors unless present at high densities. The actual competitive effect and associated yield reduction caused by S. media will depend on a number of factors; clearly higher weed densities will result in the greatest yield losses. Time of emergence in relation to the crop is also critical. S. media displays vigorous early growth and will cause the greatest yield losses when it emerges at the same time or before the crop. It is also a highly plastic species (van Acker et al., 1997), meaning that early establishment and resource capture will result in larger more competitive individuals. S. media is a poor competitor against established crop plants.S. media is also an alternative host for a number of economically important pathogens that attack a range of crop plants. A large number of nematode species which carry viral diseases are associated with S. media: these include the strawberry nematode (Aphelenchoides fragariae) (Yamada and Takakura, 1987), Meloidogyne ardenensis (Thomas and Brown, 1981), Heterodera schachtii (Gleiss and Bachthaler, 1988), Ditylenchus dispaci, Longidorus elongatus, Meloidogyne hapla, Pratylenchus penetrans, Trichodorus pachydermus and T. primitivus (Sobey, 1981). A wide range of viruses has also been isolated, including Oat blue dwarf virus (Vacke, 1998), Beet western yellows virus (Chod et al., 1997), Tomato spotted wilt virus (Bitterlich and MacDonald, 1993), Carnation ringspot virus (Rudel et al., 1977), Cucumber mosaic virus, Lettuce mosaic virus, Raspberry ringspot virus and Strawberry latent ringspot virus (Sobey, 1981).


Medicinal uses for S. media have been reported in China (Li et al., 1994) and farmers in Scandanavia encourage its growth as they believe a ground cover results in better fruit quality and yield.

Uses List

Environmental > Erosion control or dune stabilization
Environmental > Host of pest
Medicinal, pharmaceutical > Traditional/folklore
Human food and beverage > Vegetable

Prevention and Control

Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Cultural Control

A range of cultural and integrated weed management strategies have been investigated for the control of S. media. In trials in the UK, the summer biomass of S. media was reduced more by spring- compared with autumn-harrowing in a winter wheat crop (Wilson et al., 1993). In Czechoslovakia, S. media occurred at higher frequencies on no-tillage than on tilled plots (Stach, 1992), whilst in Oregon, USA comparisons between daytime and night-time cultivation have indicated the potential for reducing the germination of buried weed seeds, including S. media, by as much as 75% if cultivation is practised at night (Scopel et al., 1994). The nature of crop rotation may also affect the weed flora present in arable fields, and long-term trials in Germany have indicated that S. media is favoured by rotations consisting of 80% compared with 50% cereals (Pallutt, 1991).S. media has an unprotected growing point, and as such, is susceptible to flame weeding. In Sweden, 100% kill was achieved with a single treatment at the 0-4 leaf stage (Ascard, 1995). This technique was similarly successful in apple orchards in Italy (Ferrero et al., 1994).Integrated approaches to weed management involving competitive crop varieties, high crop densities and increased N fertilization have been successful in suppressing weed populations (of which S. media was a major constituent), and increasing crop yields (Grundy et al., 1997).

Chemical Control

Recommendations for the chemical control of S. media are summarized below by crop type:Cereals: S. media was one of the first weeds to increase in importance because of their tolerance of 2,4-D and MCPA. It is, however, susceptible to the closely related mecoprop, and many of the newer herbicides including fluoroglycofen + luoroglycofen + triasulfuron and terbutryn + triasulfuron in barley (Dovydaitis, 1997), ioxynil + prosulfocarb (Thiesson et al., 1996), metosulam + fluroxypyr (Daniau, 1996), isoproturon when applied to winter wheat crops in early May (Soroka et al., 1995) and methabenzthiazuron + isoxaben in winter cereals (Cheer et al., 1988).Sugarbeet: triflusulfuron + phenmedipham (Toth and Peter, 1997).Perennial crops: in trials in apple orchards, walnuts and vine crops in California and the Pacific Northwest, USA, thiazopyr successfully controlled S. media (Warner and Holmdal, 1995).Oilseed rape: in Sweden, benazolin + clopyralid + cyanazine gave effective control of S. media and a range of other broad-leaved weeds (Roslon, 1991).Pastures: in ryegrass, Phleum pratense and Trifolium repens swards, good control was achieved with autumn applications of a benazolin/2,4-DB/MCPA mixture (Swift et al., 1987), in ryegrass swards, methabenzthiazuron and ethofumesate controlled S. media without damaging L. perenne (Kirkham, 1983). Linuron has also been shown to be effective (Moll, 1981). Mamarot and Rodriguez (1997) provide suggestions for use of herbicides and herbicide mixtures in a wide range of crops in France.

Herbicide Resistance

Chlorsulfuron-resistant biotypes of S. media have been reported in Denmark (Andreasen and Jensen, 1994) and Alberta, Canada (O'Donovan et al., 1994). In pot experiments, a biotype from Denmark was resistant to a wide range of ALS inhibitors including chlorsulfuron, metsulfuron, tribenuron, triasulfuron, sulfometuron, flumetsulam and imazapyr (Kudsk et al., 1995). Hall and Devine (1990) detected cross-resistance to a triazolopyrimidine herbicide in a chlorsulfuron-resistant accession of S. media. Resistance of the species to mecoprop has also been reported in the UK (Lutman and Snow, 1987).

Biological Control

There is no evidence in the literature of research to establish potential biological control agents for S. media.

Links to Websites

GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.


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