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Although it is now most appreciated for the beauty of its flower, Star Chickweed has been of great value through the centuries to birds, animals, and humans. Several species of birds find its seeds to be quite delectable (which accounts for one of its other common names, Birdseed), while grazing animals are drawn to it for its rich copper content.The plant can still be found for sale in the early spring in some markets of Europe; when picked before the flowers develop, it is considered to be more tender than many other wild greens. Its raw leaves are added to salads and, when boiled, taste like fresh-cooked spinach. Because it is high in vitamins A and C, Star Chickweed has been helpful in the treatment of scurvy. It has also been used as a poultice for abscesses and boils, and some people believe that bathing in water in which it has been boiled will reduce swelling.
While on the trail, you can use the Star Chickweed to help you predict the weather. According to folklore, the sun will be shining bright if the blossoms are spread out to their fullest. If they begin to close up, you had better get out the raingear, as precipitation will begin to fall within the next few hours.
Somewhat similar in appearance,Common Chickweed (Stellaria media) is found from Georgia to Maine, but its petals are shorter than its sepalsthe opposite of Star Chickweed. Mouse-ear Chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum) has hairy, oval, sessile leaves that resemble mouse ears and a stem that is covered by sticky hairs. The petals and sepals of its flowers are about equal in length.
Some places along the AT you are likely to encounter one of the Chickweeds: At the base of Amicalola Falls on the AT approach trail in Georgia; north of Angel’s Rest in southwest Virginia; on the side trail to Sunset field and on The Priest in central Virginia; and south of Pocosin fire Road in Shenandoah National Park.