Dainty flopping stems and scabbard-shaped leaves sprout upwards as a flush of the earth, they glow green like no other; pale, bright, a powdery matt emerald imagined only on the clothes of the fair-folk. They grow too fast into the air, their stems have no strength so they lean on the shoulders of others like drunken guests at a ball, wafting in the zephyrs due to their weakness, they seem like they will not last till the morrow. Overnight the plants are transformed, once barely distinguishable from the grass through which they grow, now they have set their flowers to the sky and so offer up their many names. ‘Wedding cakes’ or ‘star-of-Bethlehem’ then ‘Daddy’s-shirt-buttons’ – the nouns tumble off the tongues of the country-dwellers for generations, shortened by dialect yet they all allude to the fair flower swaying on the tip of the stalk. Each petal is a pure-shining wedding-dress white, split half-way down into the shape of coat tails; all five radiate to the points of a star, so as Sirius looks down from the night sky they stare back up as multitudinous reflections. Set into the center is a ring of fresh green that sprouts nine pollen-heavy anthers, modestly they blaze an egg-yolk yellow. So this spring plant presents us with the colours of summer; white representing the flowers, ice-creams, foaming waves and hot-weather dresses worn by fair maidens, the green as all the growth of every plant and the lemon buff of the anthers is every slash of sunshine and quiver of heat.
Stellaria holostea means ‘little-star of bone’ and is the scientific name for what is commonly known as Greater Stitchwort (or in America, where it is introduced, Addersmeat – a strange but brilliant name), so named for its historical use as a medicine for the alleviation of stitches. This is also my favourite British flower, for reasons I hope I have already made clear, it is common throughout our isles in hedgerows, woods and field-edges and flowers from April to June – often in clusters. I have found these flowering at the same time as bluebells in a woodland and combined with the suffuse blue they are stunningly beautiful. This is a very photogenic flower and looks good at any angle, I have to stop myself from taking too many pictures of it – I have used one of my pics as the main image. The Stitchwort does have a similar cousin; the Lesser Stitchwort, but as you can probably imagine this has much smaller flowers, with deeper splits in each petal and more closely resembles chickweed. This attractive wildflower is in the plant family Caryophyllaceae, known as the Pinks, which also includes the Campions, chickweeds and corncockle.