Common mouse ear

This is common mouse ear (Cerastium fontanum), sometimes called mouse ear chickweed. It grows all over the park for most of the year.

The plant’s general appearance depends on where it grows; among tall grass, it grows long and straggly stems that rely on the grasses to support the tiny flowers up into the light. At the edge of the paths, it forms low-growing clumps. It flowers from early spring right through into the autumn.

Below, you can see the flower’s structure quite clearly. It is pentamerous: it has five bilobed petals, and its whole structure is based on that number. Underneath the petals are the five hairy sepals that wrapped the flower bud before it opened and will wrap and protect the seed-case after the flower has been fertilised and its petals have withered.

There are ten stamens, two at the base of each petal; they are the pale yellow structures, rather testicular in shape. At the centre of the flower there are five carpels fused together into a ball-like pistil with five white pollen-catching stigmas at its top. The carpels are the seed producing part of the plant.

In our gardens, it is thought of as a weed. It grows in the lawn, between the paving stones and among the flowers in the flower beds. Please leave some if you can; it is the food plant for several species of moth caterpillar. Moths are suffering the same frightening drop in numbers as the butterflies but because we don’t see the moths, we pay less attention to their plight.

More of the park’s flowers.

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