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Marsh Stitchwort

Stellaria palustris

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Caryophyllaceae (Pink)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
40 centimetres tall
Fens, grassland, marshes, riverbanks, swamps, waterside.

White, 5 petals
A loose cluster of white flowers with very deep cleft petals. Flowers measure between 12 and 18mm in size. Similar to Lesser Stitchwort but the flowers are slightly larger.
A long, ovoid capsule. Light brown, 6-valved.
A perennial flower with stalkless, linear, lance-shaped, bluish-green leaves in opposite pairs up the stems. The appearance of Marsh Stitchwort is somewhere in between Greater Stitchwort and Lesser Stitchwort. One notable difference between Marsh Stitchwort and Greater Stitchwort is that Marsh Stitchwort has smooth angled stems.
Other Names:
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Stellaria palustris, also known as marsh stitchwort or mudwort, is a perennial herb in the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae). It is native to Europe and Asia, and typically found in wetland habitats such as marshes, swamps, and along streambanks. It has small white flowers that bloom in the spring and early summer. The leaves are lance-shaped and the plant can grow to be about 15-40 cm tall. The plant is edible, it is used in salads or as a vegetable. It is also considered to be a medicinal plant, with traditional uses for treating skin conditions, minor wounds and as a diuretic. It is considered to be a rare and protected species in some countries due to habitat destruction, so it is not recommended to collect it from the wild.


Marsh Stitchwort, also known as Stellaria palustris, is a delicate and charming plant that can be found in marshes, wetlands, and other moist habitats throughout Europe and North America. With its tiny white flowers and slender green stems, it is a favorite of many nature enthusiasts and wildflower lovers.

Description and Characteristics

Marsh Stitchwort belongs to the Caryophyllaceae family, which is characterized by its small, five-petalled flowers and opposite leaves. The plant has a slender, branching stem that can reach up to 40 cm in height. Its leaves are narrow and lanceolate, with a pointed tip and smooth margins. The flowers, which bloom from May to August, are small and white, with five petals that are deeply cleft at the tips. Each flower has ten stamens with white filaments and yellow anthers, and a single pistil with a green ovary.

Habitat and Distribution

Marsh Stitchwort is a wetland species that thrives in marshes, bogs, fens, and other damp habitats. It is also found in wet meadows, along streams and ditches, and on the margins of ponds and lakes. The plant is native to Europe and North America and can be found throughout much of their range. It is especially common in the British Isles, Scandinavia, and the northeastern United States.

Ecological Importance

Marsh Stitchwort plays an important role in wetland ecosystems. Its flowers are a source of nectar and pollen for a variety of insects, including bees, butterflies, and hoverflies. The plant's leaves and stems are also a food source for herbivorous insects such as caterpillars and grasshoppers. In addition, Marsh Stitchwort helps to stabilize wetland soils and prevent erosion.

Cultural Significance

In folklore and traditional medicine, Marsh Stitchwort has been used for a variety of purposes. The plant was believed to have magical properties and was used to ward off evil spirits and protect against lightning strikes. It was also used as a medicinal herb to treat a variety of ailments, including sore throats, coughs, and skin conditions.

Conservation Status

Marsh Stitchwort is not currently listed as a threatened species, but like many wetland plants, it is vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation. Wetlands are often drained or filled in for agriculture, development, or other purposes, which can have a devastating impact on the plant and animal species that depend on them. In addition, pollution and invasive species can also threaten Marsh Stitchwort and other wetland plants.

Marsh Stitchwort is a charming and important wetland plant that is worth protecting. Its delicate white flowers and slender green stems add beauty and diversity to wetland habitats, while also providing valuable ecosystem services. By preserving wetlands and other natural habitats, we can help to ensure the survival of this and other plant and animal species for generations to come.

Uses of Marsh Stitchwort

In addition to its ecological and cultural significance, Marsh Stitchwort has also been used for a variety of practical purposes. Its fibrous stems have been used to make cordage and weaving materials, while its leaves have been used as a poultice for wounds and bruises. In some parts of Europe, the plant has been used as a vegetable, with the young shoots and leaves added to soups and stews.

Identification and Similar Species

Marsh Stitchwort is a relatively easy plant to identify, especially when in flower. Its tiny white flowers, deeply cleft petals, and slender stems are distinctive and not easily confused with other species. However, there are several other members of the Stellaria genus that can be confused with Marsh Stitchwort, including Lesser Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea), Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea), and Bog Stitchwort (Stellaria alsine). These species can be distinguished from Marsh Stitchwort by their flower size, petal shape, and other morphological characteristics.

Conservation and Management

As wetland habitats continue to be threatened by development, pollution, and other human activities, it is important to develop conservation and management strategies to protect Marsh Stitchwort and other wetland species. This may involve the restoration of degraded wetlands, the creation of new wetland habitats, and the establishment of protected areas to ensure the long-term survival of these important ecosystems. In addition, education and outreach programs can help to raise awareness about the value of wetlands and the importance of preserving them for future generations.

Marsh Stitchwort is a fascinating and important wetland plant that has played a variety of roles in human culture and ecology. Whether as a source of food, medicine, or inspiration, this delicate white-flowered plant reminds us of the beauty and diversity of our natural world, and the need to protect it for the benefit of all living things.

Propagation and Cultivation

Marsh Stitchwort can be propagated from seed, which can be sown in the spring or fall. The seeds should be sown in a moist, well-drained soil in a sunny or partially shaded location. The soil should be kept moist until the seedlings emerge, and the plants should be spaced about 10-15 cm apart to allow for proper growth and development. Once established, Marsh Stitchwort is a relatively low-maintenance plant, although it may benefit from occasional watering during dry periods.

In addition to its ecological and cultural value, Marsh Stitchwort is also a popular ornamental plant that can be grown in gardens and naturalized areas. Its delicate white flowers and slender green stems make it an attractive addition to wildflower meadows, pond margins, and other naturalistic settings. In the garden, Marsh Stitchwort can be grown in mixed borders, rock gardens, and other locations where its delicate beauty can be appreciated.

Final Thoughts

In summary, Marsh Stitchwort is a beautiful and important wetland plant that plays a variety of roles in human culture and ecology. Whether as a source of food, medicine, or inspiration, this delicate white-flowered plant reminds us of the beauty and diversity of our natural world, and the need to protect it for the benefit of all living things. By preserving wetlands and other natural habitats, we can help to ensure the survival of this and other plant and animal species, and create a more sustainable and healthy future for ourselves and future generations.

Interesting Facts

  • Marsh Stitchwort is sometimes called "Water Chickweed" or "Bog Star" due to its wetland habitat and star-shaped flowers.
  • The plant has a long history of use in traditional medicine, with various parts of the plant used to treat ailments such as coughs, sore throats, and skin conditions.
  • Marsh Stitchwort is an important nectar source for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, and is sometimes used as a bioindicator for wetland health.
  • In some European countries, Marsh Stitchwort is considered a weed due to its ability to spread and compete with other plants in agricultural and horticultural settings.
  • The genus name Stellaria is derived from the Latin word "stella," meaning "star," which refers to the shape of the plant's flowers.
  • Marsh Stitchwort is also an important food source for many wetland animals, including waterfowl, muskrats, and beavers, who eat the leaves and stems of the plant.

In conclusion, Marsh Stitchwort is a fascinating and important wetland plant with a rich history of ecological and cultural significance. Its delicate white flowers, fibrous stems, and healing properties have made it a valuable resource for humans and wildlife alike, and its continued conservation and management is essential for the health and well-being of wetland ecosystems and the organisms that depend on them.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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