Three nerved sandwort is a little plant with little white flowers, hardly the most exciting plant in the world. It is low growing and often tucked in between other larger plants. However one species is as different as another, so whilst your spirit might be lifted more by seeing a Military Orchid or a Marsh Gentian, they are just another species with their own unique genetic make up and the Three nerved Sandwort must rank with equal status to any other plant.
The common dandelion is a most beautiful plant and when a roadside bank is covered with them in early spring they make a show which rivals a field of Fritilliaries or a woodland glade bedecked with wild daffodils. However as they are so common we might just give them the honour of pausing and admiring but are unlikely to make a special visit to photograph or paint them. I fear the case is the same if not more so for this little plant.
So in the light of all this, then perhaps I should show the Three nerved Sandwort of a little respect. I will try to do it justice. Three nerved because the leaves have a central vein and two major side veins running out from the leaf stalk. They are not that obvious on all leaves and perhaps show up more when viewed from the underside. Sometimes they will have two veins either side of the central one, thus making it ‘five nerved sandwort’
The flower is quite small and has five little petals. This plant has simple round petals, they are not notched and deeply indented like the stichworts and chick weeds. The plant does look superficially like a chickweed but the simple little oval petals distinguishes the sandworts from other similar plants with little white flowers. The other distinctive feature is the sepals, also five, but these are pointed and stick out between and beyond the petals. The sepals are supposed to be twice as long as the petals however I have found that they vary. As you can see from the two photos here, in the first photo the sepals are longer than the petals but only just, in the second photo, to the right, then the sepals are probably twice as long as the petals.
Three-veined sandwort likes rich, damp forests and semi-shade, and it can be found growing alone or in small patches on moss-covered rocky ledges, on boulders, crags and beside streams – places that are too small for tree roots, and where the leaf canopy is therefore open. The upper parts of sea-shores where the waves have deposited e.g. algae offer the plant an open and nutritious habitat – it is however no salt-lover. Sometimes it grows on open, calciferous rocks.
Three-veined sandwort and common chickweed (Stellaria media) initially look a lot like each other, but on closer inspection a whole host of differences become apparent. Chickweed’s stem is only hairy on one side, while three-veined sandwort is short-haired all over; chickweed’s leaves are stalked and the leaf blade is feather-veined, three-veined sandwort’s stalks are almost non-existent and the leaf blade is clearly three-veined. More differences can be found in the small, white flowers: chickweed’s sepals are blunt and the petals are so deeply lobed that its five petals look like ten; three-veined sandwort’s sepals are sharp and its petals are unlobed.
It is quite common throughout England and Wales but becomes a bit less so into Scotland, particularly as you get further north.
Well there I have done my best to give this little chap a fair crack of the whip having set myself up at the outset by saying it merits equal status with any other species.