The above image is the flowerbed/lawn weed commonly called chickweed, or called by its scientific name, Stellaria media. I took this picture to field test (in my front yard no less!) my new point-and-shoot digital camera (Cannon PowerShot SX10IS) which I purchased especially for taking just this kind of picture. The image is actually enlarged quite a bit since chickweed flowers are no more than about 4-5 millimeters across.
Does this species actually grow in the Abilene/Rolling Plains area? Good question. Since I have not moved to Abilene yet (see the first blog post) I really can’t say if it’s found there. This shot was taken in the front yard of my home in College Station, TX, which is about one hour NW of Houston. We have much warmer winters in the College Station area than in Abilene, which is about a 5 hour drive to the NW. Chickweed is commonly seen in flower around College Station most of the winter into the early spring. I checked in the Flora of North Central Texas (published by the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, more about this publication later) and this book indicates that chickweed is found over most of Texas. I’ll be eager to verify this for the Abilene area in a few weeks when I take up residence there. Even if it’s found around Abilene I’ll bet it’s not in flower at present due to the much colder temperatures they’ve experienced over the last few weeks (one night of 17°F last week).
Finally, a little flower morphology for the chickweed image. On looking at the pic you might think that there are 10 white petals. Actually, there are only 5 petals as each petal is bifid or split into two segments towards the top. The dark brown spots in the middle of the flower are stamens, the male parts of the flower that release pollen. In the very middle of the flower you notice a three-branched segment. Each of the three segments is a style with a stigma at the very tip. The stigmas are where the pollen, hopefully from a different flower, sticks and begins the process of fertilization of the flower’s ovary.
I’ll try to post some images of other common winter annuals soon. In the meantime please have a Merry Christmas!