Some members of the Plantae kingdom are lucky. Those that have beautiful flowers or therapeutic value are well documented and beautifully photographed, while those mundane, benign looking plants get the shaft. Crisp Sandwort is among the unlucky — it was difficult to identify, and frankly, I’m only 80 percent confident in this specific identification. It’s taken two months, and I had to get help from a kind soul on the Plant Identification and Disussion group on Facebook..
For sure, it’s a close cousin of Stellaria crispa, but there are a number of Sandworts and Chickweeds that grow in the area, and good photos are rare. Stellaria media is known to grow in the dunes of the North Coast, but this specimen presents with smooth stems, which indicates it is not Stellaria media, aka Chickweed.
Whatever it is, it grows in a creeping pattern. Opposite, elliptic leaves with defined tips emerge from crisp stems every few inches. Leaves on my specimen max out shy of an inch long; mature leaves appear to grow as wide as they are long.
Although the flowers are barely noticeable, I found this plant in late March tucked up against the Promenade. It stood out. At the time, few plants dared to bloom due to an excessively rainy, gloomy winter that persisted two months longer than it should have. In other words, I discovered a unicorn.
Its teeny flowers — smaller than the size of a pencil eraser — emerge from the apex of the stem as well at the leaf axils. According to the pictures I used to identify, the flowers open up to reveal stamen and green petals. I did not get a chance to observe this, because the rain kept me indoors for the next several weeks, hence the hesitancy to commit to this identification.
Pojar, J., MacKinnon, A., & Alaback, P. B. (1994). Revised Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska. Redmond, WA: Lone Pine Pub. Page 139.
Wiedemann A.M. 1984. The ecology of Pacific Northwest coastal sand dunes: a community profile. U.S. Fish Wild7 . Serv. FWS/BBS-84/04. 130 pp. Page 113. https://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/techrpt/84-04.pdf
Stellaria media (L.) Vill. (n.d.). Retrieved May 28, 2017, from https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=STME2
CalPhotos photo database. (2006–2009). Retrieved May 28, 2017, from http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?where-taxon=Stellaria crispa. University of California Berkeley.
Flora of Eastern Washington and Adjacent Idaho: Stellaria crispa. (n.d.). Retrieved May 28, 2017, from http://web.ewu.edu/ewflora/Caryophyllaceae/Stellaria%20crispa.html. Photographs by Robert L. Carr.