Cerastium cerastoides

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaCaryophyllaceaeCerastiumCerastium cerastoides


A straggling, mat-forming montane perennial herb that grows on wet acidic rocks, often in areas of late snow-lie. It is usually found above 750 m and reaches an altitude of 1220 m on Ben Macdui (S. Aberdeen), but occurs at 335 m near Mar Lodge (S. Aberdeen).



World Distribution

European Arctic-montane element; also in C. Asia and N. America.

Broad Habitats

Montane habitats (acid grassland and heath with montane species)

Light (Ellenberg): 8

Moisture (Ellenberg): 8

Reaction (Ellenberg): 5

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 4

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): -0.4

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 10.8

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1994

Height (cm): 12

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary




Clonality - primary

Shortly creeping and rooting at nodes

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 29

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: -0.05

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Cerastium cerastoides (L.) Britton

Starwort mouse-ear

Status: scarce



This is a plant of moist to wet places on high acidic mountains, often where snow lies late. C. cerastoides occurs in small sparse colonies up to several square metres in extent. It is found most frequently in oligotrophic bryophyte-rich springs, especially ones dominated by Philonotis fontana and Pohlia albicans var. glacialis, in rocky ground on the sides or floors of corries. Here it occurs with such plants as Caltha palustris, Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, Epilobium anagallidifolium, Ranunculus acris, Saxifraga stellaris, Stellaria uliginosa, Veronica serpyllifolia and Viola palustris. The plant is also found on wet, bryophyte-covered rocks and stony ground in and beside rivulets. A somewhat different habitat where it occurs occasionally is fine scree stabilised by bryophytes in gullies and crevices, at the foot of cliffs and in depressions on slopes and ridges. Associates here include Alchemilla alpina, Deschampsia cespitosa and Gnaphalium supinum, as well as some of those listed above. On a few mountains the plant is locally frequent, but on many others, apparently just as suitable, it seems to be very thinly distributed or absent. It is usually found above 750 metres although it has been recorded at 335 metres near Mar Lodge where seeds may have been washed down from higher ground; it ascends to 1220 metres on Ben Macdui.

C. cerastoides is a perennial which flowers freely but appears to set seed infrequently, unless capsule-bearing plants are overlooked. Being a straggling plant generally growing in fairly unstable habitats near running water, dispersal presumably also occurs when rooted parts of plants are washed downhill. 

C. cerastoides is under no obvious threats and is still likely to be present in any areas where it was once found. However, because of former uncertainties in Cerastium taxonomy, early records which have not been confirmed may well have been based on mistaken identifications. Nevertheless, it is an inconspicuous plant and is almost certainly much under-recorded.

It is found in Arctic Europe, western Asia and eastern North America, extending south on the mountains of central Europe and Asia. For a map of its European distribution, see Jalas & Suominen (1983).



A. G. Payne

Atlas text references

Atlas (67a)
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Jalas & Suominen (1983)
Meusel H, Jäger E, Weinert E
1965.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.