Stitchworts and Chickweeds are both in the Caryophyllaceae familly commonly known as the campion, pink or carnation family. Stellaria is the genus of both Stitchworts and Chickweeds and Wood Stitchwort is very similar to another species in the same genus called Greater Chickweed. This is Wood Stitchwort and the key feature to distinguish the two is the sepals which in the case of Wood Stitchwort are much shorter than the petals. You can see that this is the case in the photo below. It is also known as Wood Chickweed.
This species comes into flower in early May and as such is little later than its larger relative Greater Stitchwort which begins to flower in Mid April. The flowers are similar in that they are pure white and have 5 petals which are deeply notched, the petals of Wood Stitchwort are thinner and more floppy than the more robust ones of Greater Stichwort. It has 10 stamens and 3 stigmas and as I have said 5 sepals which are considerably shorter than the petals.
Other diagnostic features of this perennial plant are that the lower leaves have quite well developed leaf stalks (petioles) the main stalks are hairy and the hairs are all over the stem not arranged in two rows as with Greater Chickweed. Also the flower stalks are not excessively long which is agian the case with Greater Chichweed.
It is quite rare, mainly found in the North of England and Southern Scotland. It is only present in just over 400 of the 2810 tetrads that make up Britain and Ireland. It is virtually absent in the south of the UK, draw a line across from the Wash to Anglesey and it has only recently been recorded in about 20 tetrads in this area and 10 of these are along the Wye valley.
I found this plant whilst out on a Sunday morning walk along the Wye with my wife. We usually go for a walk every Sunday morning and we are blessed by a range of great locations both in the Forest of Dean and the Wye valley. I normally choose the route and the previous week I had chosen a path that was very steep, and it was down hill on the way out and uphill on the way back, so the next week I thought a flatter route might be more appreciated, Thus I picked a path following along the river Wye. However with 4 possible routes, up stream on the Welsh side, downstream on the Welsh side, up stream on the English side or downstream on the English side, I choose the latter. It was a lovely sunny day but the route I had chosen was largely in the shade. We did however find one place where two patches Wood Stitchwort was growing. I fear this did not quite make up for the shady walk in my wife’s eyes. For me it did but the object of our Sunday morning walks is not flower hunting so, I took a couple of photos just to confirm my suspicions and continued on our walk. I returned a couple of days later on my own complete with camera and tripod and took lots of photos and checked out all the important distinguishing feature to check that this really was the rarity I had thought it was. I was not disapointed. You can see some of the photographs below.