• Key characteristics
  • Biology
  • Impacts
  • Control
  • Further information

  • Dark green, hairy, mat-forming, short-lived perennial up to 45 cm tall. Some vegetative (non-flowering) stems are always present while the plant is flowering
  • Stems are short and creep along the ground, with flowering stems more upright
  • Leaves are hairy and shaped like the ears of a mouse, in opposite pairs. Each leaf is up to 25 mm long by 10 mm wide. The lower leaves have stalks and the upper ones are stalkless
  • Flowers are small, 8-15mm across, on stalks, with 5 deeply-notched white petals as long as the sepals. Flowers from October to March
  • Fruit are curved cylindrical capsules, 9-12 mm long, containing many tiny brown warty seeds, each about 0.6 mm long
  • Common throughout the country and is found in tussock grassland, pastures, especially after insect damage, along roadsides and in waste places
  • Annual mouse-ear chickweed (below) is more commonly the species found in crops and gardens, and is frequently a problem in newly-sown pasture
  • Mouse-ear chickweed is quite different in appearance from the unrelated chickweed itself. It has hairy leaves in contrast to the thin, bright green leaves of chickweed. The flowers are different too, with mouse-ear chickweed having five stigmas in the centre of the flower, whilst chickweed only has three.

Related species:

  • Annual mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium glomeratum) is lighter in colour, with yellowish-green leaves, and its leaves have glandular hairs which give it a sticky feeling. The flowers are about 5 mm across, with 5 notched petals, and are on short stalks in dense, compact clusters. The flowering plants often stand out above the surrounding pasture in spring. It is found throughout NZ, in gardens, insect-damaged pastures, bare ground and waste places.
  • Little mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium semidecandrum) is usually a very small semi-prostrate annual plant, with even smaller flowers, 5-6 mm across, with the sepals longer than the 5 white petals. Its leaves and stems have many sticky glandular hairs that collect small pieces of dust, dirt and insects. It is mainly found in dry stony and sandy places on the Volcanic Plateau and in Marlborough.
  • Field chickweed (Cerastium arvense) is a rhizomatous, mat-forming perennial up to 30 cm tall, with flowers up to 2 cm across in loose clusters. This species is found in open pastures, tussock grassland and scrub, mostly in eastern South Island.


  • Mouse-ear chickweed originally came from temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. It has become common in many of the temperate areas of the world The species was introduced to New Zealand in the 19th century.

Life cycle

  • A short-lived perennial, usually germinating at any time of the year but mostly in spring and autumn
  • Seed germination is promoted by light, nitrate and alternating temperatures
  • The plants can live for more than one year but how long they live depends on conditions for their survival
  • Seeds can remain dormant in the soil for up to 40 years.


  • Apparently the leaves and stems are edible, cooked or raw
  • Plants have or are being used in some places for the alleviation of fever and coughs.

Impact on pasture

  • Can take up pasture space where more productive and palatable species could be growing

Impact on livestock

  • Its rather furry leaves discourage stock from grazing it but it has no known effects on animals.

Non-chemical control

  • Bond and Davies (2007) working in Britain, quote work from other authors who suggest that ‘The weed is kept in check by early-sown cereals, by deep ploughing and by thorough surface cultivations, especially in hot weather’
  • The same authors say that in grassland, harrowing and close grazing with sheep give effective control
  • Effective pasture management (using appropriate pasture species and cultivars, correct fertiliser application and insect pest control, coupled with good grazing management) will reduce the incidence of this weed’s invasion.

Chemical Control

  • In fine turf, like lawns and bowling greens, dicamba alone or in a mixture is effective on mouse-ear chickweed, as are combinations of herbicides like bromoxynil, ioxynil and mecoprop
  • In cereals, dicamba and similar combinations to that mentioned above are often used, but many of the commonly used cereal herbicides are effective
  • It is probably not worth attempting chemical control in pasture.

Bond W, Davies G 2007. The biology and non-chemical control of common mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum Baumg.). Henry Doubleday Research Association, Ryton Organic Gardens, Coventry, UK. (accessed 2 May 2017).

Popay I, Champion P, James T 2010. An illustrated guide to common weeds of New Zealand. New Zealand Plant Protection Society, Christchurch, New Zealand.