Plants annual, usually yellowish green, with slender taproot. Stems prostrate, much-branched, 4-sided, usually 10-20(-40) cm, glabrous, with single line of hairs along each internode. Leaves petiolate (proximal) or sessile (distal); blade ovate to elliptic, usually 0.3-1.5 cm × 1-7 mm, base round to cuneate, margins entire, apex shortly acuminate, glabrous or with few cilia on margins and abaxial midrib. Inflorescences terminal, 3-35-flowered cymes; bracts lanceolate, 2-10 mm, herbaceous, margins entire. Pedicels spreading, sometimes deflexed at base in fruit, 1-10 mm, pubescent. Flowers 2-3 mm diam.; sepals 4-5, veins obscure, midrib sometimes present, lanceolate, 3-4 mm, margins narrow, herbaceous, apex acute, pubescent; petals usually absent; stam t; styles 3, ascending, becoming curled, 0.2-0.5 mm. Capsules pale straw colored, ovoid, 2-4(-5) mm, equaling to slightly longer than sepals, apex obtuse, opening by 6 valves, outwardly curled at tip; carpophore absent. Seeds pale yellowish brown, reniform to round, 0.5-0.9 mm diam., tuberculate; tubercles prominent, broader than tall, apex obtuse. 2n = 22. Flowering spring. Dunes, sandy waste places, rest areas on interstate highways; 0-1500 m; introduced; Ont.; Ariz., Ark., Calif., Colo., Fla., Ind., Kans., Ky., La., Mich., Mo., Nebr., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Va., Wash., W.Va.; Mexico; Europe. Stellaria pallida is automatically self-pollinated and often cleistogamous. It usually can be distinguished from apetalous forms of S. media by its smaller size, yellowish green color, its small sepals and small, pale seeds. Also the base and tip of the sepals occasionally are dark-red pigmented.
Annual herb with slender taproot 10 - 20 cm tall Stem: prostrate, much-branched, four-angled, hairy in a single line along each internode. Leaves: opposite, stalked (lower), stalkless (upper), yellowish green, 0.3 - 1.5 cm long, 1 - 7 mm wide, egg-shaped to elliptic with a rounded to wedge-shaped base and pointed tip, one-veined, sometimes with a few hairs along the margins and midrib. Inflorescence: a terminal cluster (cyme) of three to thirty-five flowers, subtended by a pair of bracts. Bracts 2 - 10 mm long, lance-shaped, herbaceous. Flowers: usually without petals, 2 - 3 mm wide, often with a red band basally. Stalks spreading, 1 - 10 mm long, and hairy. Stamens usually one to three. Styles three. Sepals: four or five, distinct, green, 3 - 4 mm long, lance-shaped with a pointed tip, herbaceous, and hairy. Fruit: a dehiscent capsule, upright (when mature), opening by six valves, straw-colored, 2 - 4 mm long, equal to or slightly longer than sepals, egg-shaped with a blunt apex, curled at the tip. Seeds yellowish brown, to about 0.8 mm long, round to kidney-shaped, laterally compressed, acutely bumpy (margin looks prickly).
Similar species: In the Chicago Region, Stellaria pallida differs from most other Stellaria by its lack of petals. Stellaria media may occasionally lack petals too, but it is larger, has larger sepals and seeds, and its foliage does not turn yellowish green.
Flowering: late April to mid-May
Habitat and ecology: Introduced from Europe. Common in disturbed sandy areas.
Occurence in the Chicago region: non-native
Etymology: Stellaria comes from the Latin words stella, meaning star, and -aria meaning "pertaining to," referring to the shape of the flowers. Pallida means pallid, or pale.
The lesser c., has been reported from Mich. and will doubtless be found elsewhere in our range. Much like S. media in aspect, but with pale, yellowish-green foliage and usually cleistogamous and apetalous fls; cal 3 mm or less, often with a basal red band; stamens 1-3(-5); ripe frs erect; seeds to ca 0.8 mm, acutely papillate, so that the margin looks prickly; 2n=22. Native to Europe.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.