SEARCH AND WILDFLOWER HOME PAGE    WHITE FLOWERS      CONTACT US

    The genus Eremogone was named in 1833 by Eduard Fenzl (1808-1879).  A Utah Flora and Intermountain Flora now call the genus "Arenaria".  William Weber's Colorado Flora: Western Slope, the Flora of North America,  and the Synthesis of the North American Flora, accept Eremogone not Arenaria.

     "Erem" is Greek for "a lonely place" or "desert", and "gon" is Greek for "seed"; the allusion is of unknown meaning.  "Arenaria" is from the Latin "aren", meaning "sand", thus the common name of "Sandwort", meaning "Sand Plant".  Many such plants are also known as "Chickweeds". 

      A number of Chickweeds are common in the Four Corners area, and although it is usually fairly easy to identify them as "Chickweeds", it requires time, patience, field guides, and a magnifying glass to identify their exact genus and species.

     The Chickweeds shown on this web site share characteristics: small, bright, white flowers and narrow, long, opposite leaves.  Chickweeds generally are matted quite low to the ground, but several do grow to a slender 20 inches.  They also, according to Weber, share a high degree of structural variability in petal length and showiness and in "size and development of the stamens and carpels".   Further, "Plants with small petals... will tend to have abortive and nonfunctional anthers and well-developed ovaries, while plants with showy petals often have well-developed anthers and poorly developed ovaries".   In other words, some plants, even some flower clusters on the same plant, will have developed male sexual parts and aborted female parts and some will have just the opposite.  This phenomenon is common in the Chickweed and Parsley Families.

    The Flora of North America, the Synthesis of the North American Flora, the USDA Plant Database, the Intermountain Flora, A Utah Flora , Flora of the Four Corners Region, and Flora of Colorado all place the the plants shown on this page in Caryophyllaceae (the Pink Family).  Weber and Wittman's Colorado Flora places the plants in Alsinaceae, not Caryophyllaceae, because they "differ obviously in having... flowers constructed differently, with separate instead of united sepals, and petals without narrow basal claws". All the other floras recognize that sepals can be separate versus united, but they indicate this morphological difference is just one characteristic that separates the various genera within Caryophyllaceae; it does not require splitting the plants into two families.

     "Alsinaceae" is the ancient Greek name for similar plants.  "Caryophyllaceae" is from the Greek "karya" ("walnut") and "phyllon" ("leaf") which, according to botanical Latin expert William Sterns, "refer to the aromatic smell of walnut leaves, which led to the use of the name for the [aromatic] clove and thence to the [aromatic] clove pink (Dianthus microphyllus)".   The latter is a member of Caryophyllaceae, the Pink Family.

Weber places some species of Chickweeds in Alsinaceae, not Caryophyllaceae.
Click to see more Chickweeds.

Minuartia macrantha
Minuartia macrantha. Synonyms: Alsinanthe macrantha, Arenaria macrantha. (Large-flower Sandwort).
Caryophyllaceae  (Pink Family)

Alpine. Tundra. Summer.
Upper Calico Trail, August 31, 2005.

Minuartia macrantha is one of several Chickweeds that whiten alpine tundra and trail-sides above tree line.  It is mat-forming and thrives in rocky, dry soils exposed to the intense alpine sun.  The plant is found in all Four Corners states.

The genus names "Alsinanthe", "Arenaria", and "Minuartia" are applied to this and related plants by various botanical experts.  "Alsinanthe" is for the resemblance of this plant to the plants of the genus "Alsine".  "Arenaria" is from the Latin "aren", meaning "sand" (thus the common name of "Sandwort", i.e., "Sand Plant").  The specific epithet, "macrantha", is Greek for "large-flowered". 

Linnaeus named the Minuartia (and the Arenaria) genus in 1753 in honor of Juan Minuart (1693-1768), a Spanish apothecary and botanist.  Per Axel Rydberg first named this species Alsinopsis macrantha in 1904, Aven Nelson named it Arenaria macrantha in 1909, House named it Minuartia macrantha in 1921, and Weber named it Alsinanthe macrantha in 1982. (Click for more biographical information about Minuart.)

Reichenbach named the Alsinanthe genus in 1841.

Minuartia macrantha
Minuartia macrantha. Synonyms: Alsinanthe macranthaArenaria macrantha. (Large-flower Sandwort).
Caryophyllaceae  (Pink Family)

Alpine. Tundra. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, July 17, 2006.

Minuartia macrantha
Minuartia macranthaSynonyms: Alsinanthe macranthaArenaria macrantha. (Large-flower Sandwort).
Caryophyllaceae  (Pink Family)

Alpine. Tundra. Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, July 17, 2006

Minuartia macrantha flowers usually have ten stamens and three styles.  Leaves are glabrous, minute, and crowded.

Cerastium arvense subspecies strictum

Cerastium arvense subspecies strictum.   Synonym: Cerastium strictum. (Mouse-ear Chickweed).
Caryophyllaceae  (Pink Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows. Spring.
Bear Creek Trail, June 14, 2005.

Cerastium arvense is a common, small, cute Chickweed with notched petals topping straight floral stems with few, widely-spaced, narrow, and deeply veined leaves.  Cerastium arvense is found on mountain and subalpine meadows and rocky soils.  In dry conditions it may be just two inches tall and a few inches around. As pictured at left in a moist meadow, it is six inches tall, still growing, and in a mass about eight feet in diameter.  Flower stems are considerably taller than the mass of lower leaves which form a loose mat several inches deep.

Weber believes that this plant is often, and incorrectly, called Cerastium arvense, which is, he maintains, an invasive species that occurs only at low altitudes.  C. strictum is "related to, if not identical to ... C. strictum of the high mountains of Eurasia".  The 2005 Flora of North America and the Synthesis of the North American Flora join many others in calling this species Cerastium arvense subspecies strictum.  According to the Flora of North America, the species is "remarkably variable... and grows in a diversity of habitats, making it difficult to circumscribe and distinguish, both from subspecies arvense and from forms of C. beeringianum, C. velutinum, and C. viride".

Cerastium arvense subspecies strictum
Cerastium arvense subspecies strictum.    Synonym: Cerastium strictum. (Mouse-ear Chickweed).
Caryophyllaceae  (Pink Family)

Montane, subalpine. Meadows. Spring.
Bear Creek Trail, June 14, 2005.

Notice the hairs on the flower stem and the deeply inset leaf veins.

Linnaeus named the genus in 1753; the genus name means "horned" and refers to its curved seed capsule.  "Strictum" means "straight, upright" and "arvense" means "of the fields".

 

More Cerastium arvense photographs.

Pseudostellaria jamesiana

Pseudostellaria jamesianaSynonym: Stellaria jamesiana.  (Tuber Starwort) 
Caryophyllaceae (Pink Family)

Foothills, montane. Woodlands, opening. Summer.
Mesa Verde National Park, Prater Ridge Trail, June 19, 2005.

Tuber Starwort most often occurs in clusters in scattered patches (because it spreads and sprouts from underground tubers). You will find it in drier lowlands and in montane moist forests.  It usually grows narrowly erect with leaves standing out at stiff right angles from the stem and leaf tips gently curved downward.  Tuber Starwort is tall for a chickweed, commonly growing from eight to fourteen inches.

A number of plants have "pseudo" ("false") in their name (Pseudocymopterus, Pseudotsuga, False Solomon’s Seal) to indicate that although they may resemble another plant, that resemblance is superficial.  In this case, "Pseudostellaria" refers to Starwort’s resemblance to the Stellaria genus of Caryophyllaceae.

The Pseudostellaria genus was named by Ferdinand Pax (1858-1942) in 1934.  The species was first named Stellaria jamesiana by John Torrey but Weber and Hartman moved it to the Pseudostellaria genus in 1979.  "Jamesiana" is for the naturalist Edwin James of the Long Expedition.  (More biographical information about James.)

Pseudostellaria jamesiana

Pseudostellaria jamesiana.   Synonym: Stellaria jamesiana.  (Tuber Starwort) 
Caryophyllaceae  (Pink Family)

Foothills, montane. Woodlands, opening. Summer.
Mesa Verde National Park, Prater Ridge Trail, June 5, 2004.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Minuartia macrantha

Range map for Cerastium arvense

Range map for Pseudostellaria jamesiana