Stellaria media, chickweed, is a cool-season annual plant native to Europe, which is often eaten by chickens. It is sometimes called common chickweed to distinguish it from other plants called chickweed. Other common names include chickenwort, craches, maruns, winterweed. The plant germinates in fall or late winter, then forms large mats of foliage. Flowers are small and white, followed quickly by the seed pods. This plant flowers and sets seed at the same time.Distribution
Stellaria media is widespread in North America and Europe. There are several closely related plants referred to as chickweed, but which lack the culinary properties of plants in the genus Stellaria. Plants in the genus Cerastium are very similar in appearance to Stellaria and are in the same family (Carophyllaceae). Stellaria media can be easily distinguished from all other members of this family by examining the stems.
- As Food - Stellaria media is delicious, edible and nutritious, and is used as a leaf vegetable, often raw in salads. It is one of the ingredients of the symbolic dish consumed in the Japanese spring-time festival, Nanakusa-no-sekku.
- Toxicity - Stellaria media contains plant chemicals known as saponins, which can be toxic when consumed in large quantities. Chickweed has been known to cause saponin poisoning in cattle. However, as the animal must consume several kilos of chickweed in order to reach a toxic level, such deaths are rare.
- In folk medicine - The plant has medicinal purposes and is used in folk medicine. It has been used as a remedy to treat itchy skin conditions and pulmonary diseases. A poultice of chickweed can be applied to cuts, burns and bruises.