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Procumbent Pearlwort 

Procumbent means ‘growing along the ground’ and this is certainly true of this smaller example of the Pearlworts. It is mat-forming and is indifferent to being trampled, so it can be found growing abundantly in lawns, arable fields and even pathways all around Scotland. It is a great survivor and has been seen in cracks in city pavements or fissures in cliffs by the sea, being salt-tolerant enough to cope with sea spray. 

The stalks are limp and scramble along the ground, rooting as they go, then ascending slightly at the ends. The leaves are stalk-less, begin as a rosette, and then grow in opposite clusters, two pairs on either side of stem, at close intervals. Leaves are short, about 6mm long, narrow and pointed. The rosette leaves are slightly longer. They can have a slightly fleshy appearance. Both leaves and stems are usually hairless. As the plant sends down roots a new rosette forms, from which more stems scramble away.

Flowers are often petal-less, or sometimes with 4 (rarely 5) vestigial white petals with a reddish tinge at the base. Often though you will find 4 (rarely 5) green sepals opening out from the central gynoecium, which ripens to an upright 4-lobed capsule, greyish or brownish green – this can be mistaken for petals. If there are petals these are shorter than the sepals, which dominate the flower. The flowers are tiny, a mere 3mm across, and bloom singly on long stalks. 4-5 stamens and 4-5 styles nestle in the centre of the corolla.

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