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Annual Knawel

Scleranthus annuus

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Caryophyllaceae (Pink)
Life Cycle:
Annual or Biennial
Maximum Size:
20 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, heathland, rocky places, seaside, wasteland.

Green, no petals
Flowers appear in small clusters of up to 5. They are petalless. 5 pointed (petal-like) sepals with white margins. Pollinated by insects.
The fruit is an achene. The sepals spread outwards while in fruit.
Many branched, spreading stems. The leaves are stalkless and appear in opposite pairs up the stems. The shape of the leaf is narrowly lance-shaped and it ends in a point. Grows in sandy places on bare ground.
Other Names:
German Knotweed, Knawel.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Scleranthus annuus, commonly known as annual knawel, is a species of flowering plant in the Caryophyllaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, but it has been introduced in many parts of the world. It is an annual plant that produces small, inconspicuous, green or yellow flowers on short stems. The leaves are narrow, linear and scale-like, forming small rosettes. It prefers well-drained soils and full sun to partial shade to grow well. It is often used as a ground cover, in rock gardens, and in coastal gardens. It is tolerant of salt spray and can be used in landscaping in coastal regions. It is also drought-tolerant and can be grown in poor soils, making it a low-maintenance and versatile ground cover option.

It is important to note that Scleranthus annuus is an annual plant, meaning it completes its life cycle within one year and dies after producing seeds, while Scleranthus perennis is a perennial plant, meaning it lives for more than two years, it will come back year after year.


Annual knawel (Scleranthus annuus) is a small, low-growing herb that belongs to the pink family (Caryophyllaceae). It is native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia, and is commonly found in dry grasslands, rocky slopes, and disturbed areas such as roadsides and waste grounds.

The annual knawel has a prostrate habit, with stems that grow up to 20 cm long. The leaves are small, narrow, and needle-like, and are arranged opposite each other on the stem. The flowers are small and inconspicuous, and are borne in clusters at the ends of the stems. They are greenish-white in color and appear from May to September.

The annual knawel is an annual plant, which means that it completes its life cycle in one year. It germinates in the spring, grows and flowers in the summer, and then dies in the fall or winter. It is easy to grow from seed, and can be sown directly in the garden in the spring.

One of the interesting characteristics of the annual knawel is its ability to grow in poor, sandy soils with low levels of nutrients. It is also tolerant of drought and heat, making it an ideal plant for rock gardens, xeriscapes, and other low-maintenance landscapes.

In addition to its ornamental value, the annual knawel also has some medicinal uses. It has been used traditionally to treat a variety of ailments, including rheumatism, urinary tract infections, and respiratory disorders. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support these claims.

The annual knawel is also known by other common names such as annual knotgrass, annual pearlwort, and German knotgrass. It is not to be confused with its close relative, the perennial knawel (Scleranthus perennis), which has similar characteristics but is a perennial plant.

In addition to its use in traditional medicine, the annual knawel has also been used in agriculture as a forage crop for livestock. It is able to grow in poor soils and withstand drought conditions, making it a useful crop in arid regions.

The annual knawel is a valuable plant for wildlife as well. It provides food and habitat for a variety of insects, including butterflies and moths. It is also a host plant for the common grass blue butterfly (Zizeeria maha), which lays its eggs on the leaves of the plant.

Despite its low profile, the annual knawel has attracted the attention of some researchers due to its unique ability to accumulate heavy metals in its tissues. This makes it a potential candidate for phytoremediation, a process where plants are used to remove pollutants from contaminated soils.

Another interesting aspect of the annual knawel is its role in traditional folklore and beliefs. In some cultures, the plant was believed to have magical properties and was used in spells and rituals. For example, it was said to protect against evil spirits and was hung in doorways or placed under pillows to ward off nightmares. It was also believed to bring good luck and prosperity, and was carried in pockets or worn as an amulet.

Furthermore, the annual knawel has a rich history in art and literature. It has been depicted in numerous works of art, including botanical illustrations and paintings. It has also been referenced in poetry and literature, often as a symbol of resilience and endurance in the face of adversity.

In terms of cultivation, the annual knawel is relatively easy to grow and care for. It prefers well-drained soils and full sun, but can tolerate some shade. It is drought-tolerant and does not require frequent watering or fertilization. It can be propagated by seed or division, and is generally not affected by pests or diseases.

While the annual knawel may not be as popular as other ornamental plants, it has its own unique beauty and charm. Its needle-like leaves and tiny greenish-white flowers give it a delicate and subtle appearance, making it an excellent choice for rock gardens, crevices, and other small spaces. Its low-growing habit also makes it a good ground cover and filler plant.

In terms of maintenance, the annual knawel does not require much attention. It can be left to grow naturally, or trimmed back to maintain its shape and prevent it from becoming too leggy. It is also easy to remove if it becomes too invasive or unwanted.

Aside from its uses in traditional medicine, agriculture, and phytoremediation, the annual knawel may also have potential as a source of natural dyes. The plant contains a yellow pigment called flavoxanthin, which has been shown to produce a range of colors from yellow to green, depending on the mordant used.

In conclusion, the annual knawel is a small but fascinating plant with a range of interesting properties and potential uses. While it may not be as well-known or widely cultivated as other ornamental plants, it has its own unique beauty and value. Whether used for its ornamental qualities, medicinal properties, or other potential applications, the annual knawel is a plant worth discovering and appreciating.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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