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Corn Spurrey

Spergula arvensis

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Caryophyllaceae (Pink)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, grassland, meadows, riverbanks, roadsides, rocky places, wasteland.

White, 5 petals
5 tiny white unnotched petals, 5 styles. Flowers in leafless clusters with stems forked.
Green, smooth, egg-shaped and long capsules. The seeds are blackish and glossy.
The whorled leaves are thread-like, stalkless and furrowed beneath. They are greyish in colour. The stipules fall off early on in the season.
Flowers are fragrant.
Other Names:
Beggarweed, Bottlebrush, Corn Spurry, Cowquake, Devil's Gut, Dodder, Farmer's Ruin, Field Sand Spurrey, Field Spurrey, Franke, Fraud Flax, Granyagh, Lousy Grass, Make-beo-oar, Mountain Flax, Pick-pocket, Pickpurse, Pine Chest, Poverty Weed, Sandweed, Starwort, Stickwort, Surrey, Toadflax, Yarr, Yarrel.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Spergula arvensis, also known as "Corn Spurrey" or "Field Sand Spurrey," is a small annual or perennial herb that is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. It is a member of the Caryophyllaceae family. This plant typically grows to a height of 10-20 cm and has small, needle-like leaves and small, white or pink flowers. It typically blooms from June to September. S. arvensis is commonly found in fields, gardens, waste places, and along roadsides. It is a highly adaptable plant that can grow in a wide range of soils, including sandy and clay soils, and can tolerate drought and light shade. It is considered an invasive species in some areas.


Corn spurrey, also known as Spergula arvensis, is a small annual plant that is commonly found in agricultural fields and other disturbed areas throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. Despite its diminutive size, this plant has played a significant role in human history, both as a source of food and medicine, and as a symbol of resilience and perseverance.

Physical Characteristics

Corn spurrey is a low-growing plant that typically reaches a height of around 20-30 cm. Its stem is slender and branching, and its leaves are small and narrow, with a distinctive pointed tip. The flowers of corn spurrey are white or pinkish in color, and are arranged in loose clusters at the ends of the stems. Each flower has five petals, which are deeply notched and slightly curved.


One of the most interesting aspects of corn spurrey is its historical use as a food source. In some parts of the world, the seeds of this plant were traditionally ground into a flour and used to make bread or porridge. The flour was also used as a thickener in soups and stews. Although corn spurrey is not commonly used as a food today, it is still occasionally consumed in some regions, particularly in times of food scarcity.

Corn spurrey also has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The plant was believed to have a wide range of healing properties, and was used to treat everything from respiratory infections to digestive problems. In modern times, scientists have discovered that corn spurrey contains a number of biologically active compounds that may have therapeutic potential, although more research is needed to fully understand the plant's medicinal properties.


Throughout history, corn spurrey has been associated with resilience and endurance. This is in part due to its ability to thrive in harsh, disturbed environments, and in part due to its status as a "weed" that is often overlooked or undervalued. In folklore and literature, corn spurrey has been used as a symbol of the underdog, the survivor, and the unappreciated hero.

In modern times, some people have begun to view corn spurrey as a symbol of ecological resilience and adaptation. As human activity continues to disrupt natural ecosystems, many species of plants and animals are struggling to survive. Corn spurrey, with its ability to grow and reproduce in disturbed areas, may serve as a reminder of the resilience and adaptability of nature, even in the face of great challenges.

Corn spurrey may be a small and unassuming plant, but it has played a significant role in human history and culture. From its use as a food and medicine to its symbolism as a symbol of resilience and adaptation, corn spurrey has much to offer. Whether viewed as a weed or a treasure, this plant is a reminder of the diversity and complexity of the natural world, and of our ongoing relationship with the plants that surround us.

Ecological Role

Corn spurrey is known to be a pioneer species, which means that it is one of the first plants to colonize disturbed or bare soils. This makes it an important plant for soil stabilization and erosion control, particularly in agricultural fields and other areas where the soil is frequently disturbed. By establishing a network of roots and holding the soil in place, corn spurrey helps to prevent erosion and create a stable foundation for other plants to grow.

In addition to its role in soil stabilization, corn spurrey is also an important source of food and habitat for a variety of insects and other small creatures. The nectar-rich flowers of the plant are particularly attractive to bees, which are important pollinators for many other plant species. By providing food and habitat for insects and other small creatures, corn spurrey helps to support a diverse and healthy ecosystem.


Although corn spurrey is generally considered a weed, it can also be cultivated as a garden plant or a crop. In some parts of the world, the seeds of the plant are grown as a source of food or livestock feed, and the plant is sometimes used as a green manure or cover crop. In the garden, corn spurrey can be grown as a ground cover or used as an edging plant, and its delicate flowers can add a touch of whimsy to any landscape.

Corn spurrey is a small but fascinating plant that has much to offer in terms of history, culture, and ecology. Whether viewed as a source of food and medicine, a symbol of resilience and adaptation, or an important ecological player, corn spurrey is a plant that is well worth getting to know. As we continue to explore the many uses and values of this remarkable little plant, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the natural world and the role that plants play in our lives.


Although corn spurrey is a common and widespread plant, it is still important to consider its conservation status. Like many other native plants, corn spurrey may be threatened by habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation. In addition, the use of herbicides and other chemical treatments in agricultural fields may also pose a threat to the plant and the insects that rely on it for food and habitat.

To ensure the continued survival of corn spurrey and other native plants, it is important to take steps to protect and conserve natural habitats, and to promote sustainable agricultural practices. This might include measures such as reducing tillage and other forms of soil disturbance, using cover crops and other forms of natural soil improvement, and minimizing the use of chemicals and other synthetic inputs.

Cultural Significance

Corn spurrey has played an important role in human culture and folklore for thousands of years. In some cultures, the plant was believed to have magical or supernatural powers, and was used in spells and rituals to bring good luck, ward off evil spirits, or promote fertility and abundance. In other cultures, corn spurrey was associated with traditional festivals and celebrations, and was used to make garlands or wreaths for ceremonial purposes.

In modern times, corn spurrey continues to be valued for its cultural significance and aesthetic appeal. Its delicate flowers and low-growing habit make it a popular choice for gardens, parks, and other public spaces, and its symbolic associations with resilience and perseverance continue to inspire and motivate people from all walks of life.


In conclusion, corn spurrey is a small but remarkable plant with a rich history and cultural significance. From its use as a food and medicine to its ecological and aesthetic value, corn spurrey has much to offer. By taking steps to protect and conserve this plant and other native species, we can help to ensure a healthy and vibrant natural world for generations to come.


Corn Spurrey filmed in Rivington, Lancashire on the 11th June 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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