Plants

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

An introduced herb that is widespread around South Africa, Chickweed (Stellaria media) is of value both as a nutritious leafy green, and medicinal tonic. The green, oval-shaped leaves with pairs that grow opposite to each other arrive around the cooler and wetter time of year. Partial to to shaded areas with moist soil, Chickweed can be evergreen and perennial in warmer areas, while in colder areas it becomes annual. The flowers consist of five double-lobed white petals that are supported by a single whorl of five green sepals.

A bundle of fresh Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed has become widely naturalized around the world, although native to Europe where it has played a central role in traditional folk medicine for centuries. The soft leaves and stems were prepared as a spring tonic, used for cleansing the system and helping to shed winter weight, as well as a topical application for treating a range of ailments including, but not limited to, skin diseases, arthritis and as a pain relief for menstrual cramps. It is not advised for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Part of Chickweed’s reputation lies in its cooling and drying properties, known for its efficacy in treating eczema, acne, psoriasis, burns, rashes, cuts and bites.

Once a popular garden crop in parts of Europe and Asia up until the early 19th century, the leaves and stems are excellent eaten raw, resemble the flavour of corn silk, a mild and pleasant vegetal profile. Chickweed is best eaten on the same day as collecting as it wilts rather quickly.

This website takes a sustainable approach to foraging and doesn’t focus on protected or indigenous plants or fungi. Like the other invasive plants on this website, this is a species that should not be cultivated or propagated in South Africa. It’s often illegal to buy, sell or trade in exotic plants.

Learn how to forage with this South African foraging guide, or find out which South African books cover foraging

Other wild edible plants to forage in South Africa