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Heath Pearlwort

Sagina subulata

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Caryophyllaceae (Pink)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
8 centimetres tall
Gardens, heathland, meadows, moorland, mountains, riverbanks, riversides, rocky places, seaside, walls, waterside, wetland, woodland.

White, 5 petals
Tiny white solitary flowers with 5 petals. The similar looking Procumbent Pearlwort (Sagina procumbens) usually has 4 petals and smaller flowers. Just like Procumbent Pearlwort, the petals are not notched at their ends.
A roundish, 4-parted capsule, measuring up to 3mm long.
A prostrate, low and thick growing, moss-like perennial. The linear leaves appear in opposite pairs up the stems. Procumbent Pearlwort has longer stems than Heath Pearlwort. Usually seen growing on dry, bare, sandy soils on or near the coast.
Other Names:
Awl-leaf Pearlwort, Irish-moss, Needle Pearlwort, Scottish Moss.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Sagina subulata, also known as Irish moss or needle pearlwort, is a low-growing perennial herb in the family Caryophyllaceae. It is native to Europe and Asia and typically grows in damp, shady areas such as woodlands, meadows, and along streams and rivers. The plant has small, green leaves that are needle-like, and tiny white flowers that bloom in the summer. The root of the plant is not edible and it is not considered to be toxic. It is mainly used as a ground cover or in rock gardens. It is known for its ability to survive in poor soils and can be useful for stabilizing soil in erosion-prone areas. It is also sometimes used in traditional medicine to treat certain ailments and in horticulture as a ground cover.


Heath Pearlwort, scientifically known as Sagina subulata, is a charming and low-growing groundcover plant that is native to Europe, northern Africa, and parts of Asia. It is a member of the Caryophyllaceae family and is often used in landscaping and gardening for its unique and attractive appearance.

Description and Characteristics

Heath Pearlwort is a small, evergreen perennial plant that typically grows to a height of only 1-3 inches (3-8 cm). It has a creeping or mat-forming growth habit, which makes it an excellent choice for use as a ground cover. The plant produces numerous small, bright green leaves that are needle-like and arranged in whorls around the stem. The leaves are approximately 0.2-0.4 inches (0.5-1 cm) long and 0.02 inches (0.5 mm) wide.

The plant produces tiny white flowers that are approximately 0.2 inches (0.5 cm) in diameter. The flowers are usually produced in late spring or early summer and continue to bloom sporadically throughout the summer months. Heath Pearlwort is a hardy plant that can withstand both heat and cold, making it suitable for a variety of different growing conditions.

Cultivation and Uses

Heath Pearlwort is a versatile plant that can be grown in a variety of different settings, including rock gardens, border edging, and as a ground cover. It prefers well-draining soil that is moist but not waterlogged and can tolerate full sun to partial shade. It is a low-maintenance plant that requires little attention once established and is resistant to many common plant diseases and pests.

One of the primary benefits of Heath Pearlwort is its ability to form a dense, weed-resistant mat that helps to suppress the growth of unwanted plants. This makes it an excellent choice for use in areas where other plants may struggle to thrive, such as in the cracks between paving stones or on steep banks.

In addition to its functional uses, Heath Pearlwort is also prized for its ornamental value. Its bright green leaves and delicate white flowers make it an attractive addition to any garden or landscaping project. It is often used in rock gardens and alpine plantings, where its low-growing habit and ability to withstand harsh growing conditions make it an ideal choice.

Heath Pearlwort is a versatile and attractive plant that is well-suited to a variety of different growing conditions. Its ability to form a dense, weed-resistant mat makes it an excellent choice for use as a ground cover, while its ornamental value makes it a popular choice for use in gardens and landscaping projects. Whether you are looking for a hardy, low-maintenance plant for a rocky outcropping or a delicate accent for a flowerbed, Heath Pearlwort is an excellent choice.

More Information

Heath Pearlwort has a long history of use in traditional medicine for its healing properties. The plant contains high levels of flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants that help to protect the body against free radical damage. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive disorders, respiratory infections, and skin conditions.

In addition to its medicinal properties, Heath Pearlwort has also been used in folklore and mythology. In Celtic mythology, the plant was believed to have magical powers that could protect against evil spirits and bring good luck. It was also used in traditional wedding ceremonies, where it was thought to bring happiness and prosperity to the newlyweds.

Heath Pearlwort is also an important source of food for a variety of wildlife, including butterflies, moths, and bees. Its small, delicate flowers provide a valuable source of nectar for pollinators, while its leaves serve as a food source for caterpillars.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the use of Heath Pearlwort in sustainable agriculture. The plant is well-suited to growing conditions that are unsuitable for many other crops, and its ability to form a dense, weed-resistant mat makes it an ideal choice for use as a cover crop. Cover crops are used to improve soil health, prevent erosion, and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Heath Pearlwort is a versatile and valuable plant that has a wide range of uses and benefits. Its hardy nature, attractive appearance, and low-maintenance requirements make it an excellent choice for use in landscaping and gardening projects, while its medicinal properties, cultural significance, and ecological importance make it a plant of significant interest and value.

Heath Pearlwort is also known by several common names, including Irish moss, Scottish moss, and Corsican pearlwort. However, it is important to note that it is not a true moss, despite its appearance and common name.

Propagation of Heath Pearlwort is relatively easy and can be done through seed or division. Seeds should be sown in late winter or early spring, and the plant will typically begin to flower in its second year of growth. Division can be done in the spring or fall, and the plant should be spaced approximately 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) apart to allow for proper growth and spread.

One of the challenges of growing Heath Pearlwort is keeping it from becoming invasive. While its ability to form a dense mat is desirable in some settings, it can also make it difficult to control in others. To prevent Heath Pearlwort from spreading beyond its intended area, it is important to monitor its growth and trim back any areas that begin to encroach on other plants or areas of the garden.

In addition to its use as a ground cover, Heath Pearlwort is also a popular choice for use in miniature gardens and fairy gardens. Its small size and delicate appearance make it a perfect choice for creating miniature landscapes and adding a touch of whimsy to any garden or indoor space.

Overall, Heath Pearlwort is a fascinating and valuable plant that offers a wide range of uses and benefits. Whether you are looking for an attractive ground cover for your garden, a low-maintenance plant for a rock garden, or a source of inspiration for your fairy garden, Heath Pearlwort is sure to impress.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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