Moenchia erecta

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaCaryophyllaceaeMoenchiaMoenchia erecta

Ecology

This annual grows on summer-droughted soils in tightly-grazed grasslands and heaths, on cliff-tops, pathsides, coastal dunes and sandy shingle, usually in open patches where competition is limited. It is also found in quarries and sand-pits, and on other disturbed ground. Generally lowland, but reaching 410 m at Widecombe, Dartmoor (S. Devon).

Status

Native

World Distribution

Suboceanic Southern-temperate element.

© G. Toone, IWNHAS

Broad Habitats

Acid grassland (includes non-calcareous sandy grassland)

Light (Ellenberg): 9

Moisture (Ellenberg): 4

Reaction (Ellenberg): 4

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 3

0

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4.2

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16

Annual Precipitation (mm): 823

Life form information

Height (cm): 12

Perennation - primary

Annual

Life Form - primary

Therophyte (annual land plant)

Woodiness

Herbaceous

Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 418

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 14

Atlas Change Index: -0.65

Distribution information

JNCC Designations

NHMSYS0000460745

Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Moenchia erecta (L.) Gaertner, Meyer and Scherb.

Upright chickweed

Status: not scarce

 

This plant grows on open broken soils that are at least seasonally parched. In coastal situations the plant is found on cliff tops, pathsides, dunes and other dry grasslands, often with Cerastium diffusum, Sagina maritima and Sedum anglicum. These grasslands are maintained by a combination of exposure to wind, insolation, soil creep and occasional grazing. The soils in these circumstances tend to be very shallow. The plant is locally abundant inland on the tightly-grazed grasslands and heaths of the New Forest, where it is sometimes found on soils which are waterlogged in winter. M. erecta is known from other scattered inland sites, both in natural habitats and often in adventitious circumstances such as on mineral workings and other disturbed ground. In dry grassland M. erecta may be found in association with Ornithopus perpusillus, and a range of Trifolium species including T. glomeratum, T. ornithopodioides, T. scabrum and T. subterraneum. On richer gley soils associates may include Chamaemelum nubile, Cicendia filiformis, Illecebrum verticillatum and Radiola linoides. It is a lowland plant, but reaches 400 metres near Widecombe on Dartmoor.

M. erecta is an annual, usually germinating in spring and setting seed and dying before mid-summer. The dried remains of flower sterns may persist late into a dry summer. Seed is freely set and falls from the capsule. It readily germinates in bare and broken ground. Where conditions are suitable the plant may become locally abundant.

This plant was formerly widespread on lowland heaths and commons. With the cessation of heavy grazing many heathlands have lost open ground to dwarf shrubs (Erica spp. and Calluna vulgaris), rank grasses (Holcus spp. and Molinia caerulea) and tall scrub (Betula spp. and Salix spp.). As with so many other species, M. erecta is a casualty of socioeconomic changes leading to a decline in pastoral management, combined with a reluctance of conservation managers to graze coastal slopes and heaths. 

M. erecta subsp. erecta is confined to western Europe, with outliers in Italy, Greece and Turkey and it reaches its northern limit in Northumberland. Its distribution is mapped by Jalas & Suominen (1983). Subsp. octandra is found in the western Mediterranean region.

As a rather inconspicuous and early flowering species, this plant is possibly under-recorded.

 

C. Chatters

PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Atlas text references

Atlas (72a)
Jalas & Suominen (1983)
Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols,
Meusel, H., Jäger E., and Weinert E.
, Jena, (1965)

Scarce plants in Britain,
Stewart, A., Pearman D. A., and Preston C. D.
, Peterborough, (1994)