Caryophyllaceae: Pink Family — Stickwort & Sand-spurrey

In the Pink family, leaves are generally opposite on swollen nodes.  Most genera have smallish, regular, 5-petaled and 5-sepaled flowers.  Silene (Catchfly or Campion) has larger, more striking flowers.  A few genera, such Herniaria (Rupturewort) and Cardionema (Sandmat), have petal-like sepals, but lack true petals.

Stickwort / Starwort / Spurry – Spergula arvensis

Blooms:

Mar–June

Plant Height:

10–40+ cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Open grassy areas

Notes:

This common, small plant is delicate.  It is usually branched, and has whorls of linear leaves. The flowers are distinctive, pure white and 5-petaled, with sepals alternating with and behind each petal.  This creates the star pattern which explains one of its common names. The stigma is 5-lobed, and there are either 5 or 10 stamens.

Boccone’s Sand-spurrey – Spergularia bocconi

Blooms:

Apr–May

Plant Height:

Mat forming

Flower Size:

Very small

Origin:

Europe

Habitat:

Coastal

Notes:

Similar to Sticky Sand-spurrey (Spergularia macrotheca, see below), but much smaller and more delicate.  The right hand photo shows both for comparison.  Flowers have 8–10 stamens, unlike the very similar Saltmarsh Sand-spurrey (Spergularia marina) which has only 2–5.  Leaves are solitary or in pairs.

Sticky Sand-spurrey – Spergularia macrotheca var. macrotheca

Blooms:

Mar–Oct

Plant Height:

5–35 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Sea bluffs and salt marshes

Notes:

A common coastal plant with 5-petaled flowers that are white, pink to rosy, or even blue.  The stigma is 3-lobed (unlike the 5-lobed stigma of Stickwort (Spergula arvensis, see above), and there are 9 or 10 stamens (compared to 5 or 10 for Stickwort).  Sepals are 4.5–7 mm, the longest of any of the native sand-spurreys.  Narrow, fleshy leaves are 1-2 per cluster.

Red / Purple Sand-spurrey – Spergularia rubra

Blooms:

Apr–Sept

Plant Height:

< 5 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Eurasia

Habitat:

Sunny, sandy places, disturbed areas

Notes:

A common, low-growing plant, often forming mats.  It has pink to lavender flowers, with green to purplish sepals.  Leaves are barely fleshy, 2–4 per cluster.  There are 2–10 stamens and, like other Spergularia, it has a 3-lobed stigma.