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Sagina procumbens

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Sagina procumbens
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Caryophyllaceae
Genus: Sagina
S. procumbens
Binomial name
Sagina procumbens

Sagina procumbens is a species of flowering plant. in the family Caryophyllaceae known by the common names procumbent pearlwort,[1] birdeye pearlwort[2] and matted pearlwort. It can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and parts of South America. It is a common weed of many environments. It can be found in wild and disturbed habitat, especially moist areas. It can sometimes be seen growing in lawns or in cracks in pavements. This is a perennial herb forming clumps or mats of hairless green herbage, sometimes vaguely resembling a patch of moss. The leaves are linear and up to 1 or 2 centimeters long. The inflorescence is a solitary flower with four or five sepals and four or five small white petals, but the petals are sometimes absent.


Showing short leaves no more than 10mm long. Flowers minute and solitary, sepals 4 or 5, petals minute or absent.[3]

As an invasive species[edit]

In 1998 numerous well-developed plants were found on the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Gough Island, where it is an introduced species. Given the island's remoteness, seeds were most likely introduced from visitors' footwear and/or clothing. Without control the plant will very likely transform the ecosystem of the island's uplands, as it has already done on the Prince Edward Islands, where it has spread at a rate of 100 m to 300 m per year and is now considered beyond control.[4] Eradication programs on Gough Island are ongoing and are expected to require years of 'concerted effort'.[5]

Role in myths, magic and legends of Great Britain[edit]

It is said to have been the first plant on which Christ set his foot when he came to Earth, or when he rose from the dead. In the highlands of Scotland it was supposed to have derived supernatural powers from having been blessed by Christ, St Bride and St Columba. A spray of it hung from the door lintel gave protection against fairies, especially those who made a practise of spiriting people away. If pearlwort were stuck in a bull's fore-hooves, the cows with which it mated and the calves and the milk they produced were safeguarded from ills. If a cow ate the herb, its calves and milk, and all who drank the milk, were also protected against fairies. For the young village maiden, pearlwort brought a bonus. If drunk in an infusion, or used merely to wet the lips, it would attract her favoured lover, and if a piece of it were in the girl's mouth when she kissed him, he was bound to her for ever.[6]


Sagina means 'fodder'; the genus was named for a fodder plant, spurrey, which has since been moved into its own genus, Spergula.[7]

Procumbens means 'procumbent', 'lying flat on the ground', or 'creeping forwards'.[7]


  1. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  2. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Sagina procumbens". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  3. ^ Parnell, J. and Curtis, T. 2012 Webb's An Irish Flora. Cork University PressISBN 978-185918-4783
  4. ^ Cooper, J. et al., "Earth, fire and water: applying novel techniques to eradicate the invasive plant, procumbent pearlwort Sagina procumbenss, on Gough Island, a World heritage Site in the South Atlantic", Invasive Species Specialist Group, 2010, Retrieved on 12 February 2014.
  5. ^ Bisser, P. et al., "Strategies to eradicate the invasive plant procumbent pearlwort Sagina procumbens on Gough Island, 2010", Retrieved on 12 February 2014.
  6. ^ Reader's Digest Nature Lover's Library, Field Guide to the Wildflowers of Britain, Editor Michael W. Davison, Art Editor Neal V. Martin, The Reader's Digest Association Limited, 11 Westferry Circus, Canary Wharf, London E144HE, Reprint 2001, ISBN 0 276 42506 5.
  7. ^ a b Gledhill, David (2008). "The Names of Plants". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521866453 (hardback), ISBN 9780521685535 (paperback). pp 315, 337

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