l have a small amount of Greater Stitchwort growing in our patch of Ninewells wood in Monmouthshire.
It prefers to grow on the surrounding wall. This is a very old stone wall that has lots of trees and bushes growing out of it but also supports a few wild flowers like the Stitchwort, but also Wood sage, Wood anemones and common vetch. The wall is topped with Common Polypody fern. I suspect the reason the Stitchwort is mostly located here is because it is some what drier and most of the wood can become fairly waterlogged during the winter and early spring. This is probably not to the Stitchwort’s liking.
This plant is a member of the Caryophyllaceae familly, commonly known as Pinks. This family includes Campions, Ragged Robin, Pinks (obviously), Stitchworts, Mouse-ears and Pearlworts, to name some of them. The main characteristics of this family is that the stems often show a slight swelling at each node and attached to each node are a pair of leaves. The flowers usually have 5 sepals and 5 petals, the petals are often notched and they certainly are in the case of this species Greater Stitchwort.
Shirt buttons was what my mother called it, and on looking it up I have found that it was known as Daddy’s Shirt buttons and it has some other common names like ‘Wedding Cakes’ and ‘Star-of-Bethlehem’ though there are several plants commonly referred to as Star of Bethlehem. My mother did not have a huge knowledge of wild flowers but I do remember that at a young age when I used to go to Sunday school, there was the harvest festival in the church towards the end of the summer and there were a few competitions for children involving flowers. One was the ‘floating garden’ just a dish with water in and then flowers or petals arranged artistically floating on the water…. that was definitely for girls. Another was a miniature garden.. lots of moss and twigs in that one, again a bit girly However the one I liked and I remember my Mother helping me with was the biggest and best bunch of wild flowers. I never won but I used to plunder and pillage the countryside looking for the rarest and most spectacular wild flowers. I did my bit to ensure that today we have rare and threatened species. My mothers contribution was to prepare them all and arrange them tastefully. I suspect that most churches had similar competitions for their younger members and boys of the 1950’s would think nothing of picking wildflowers and the more unusual the better.
There is another species called Lesser Stitchwort which as you might expect is somewhat smaller and more delicate. I have seen this growing in woodlands and here is a photo I took of it in Whitestone Picnic area in the woods above Llandogo in the Wye valley. However in Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland by Fitter Fitter and Blamey they say it grows in grassy heathy places often on acidic soils, which no doubt it does, but it also grows in woodlands. Incidentally the book is excellent and I often refer to it.
Click to see other flowers from the Wye valley woodlands