Baby Tears

Baby Tears

"As a drenched, drowned bee
Hangs numb & heavy from a bending flower,
So clings to me
My baby, her brown hair brushed with wet tears."

-D. H. Lawrence


Soleirolia soleirolii, native to Corsica & Sardinia, is variously known as Baby Tears, Angel Tears, Mind-Your-Own-Business, Peace-in-the-Home, Helxine (after its former genus name), Solieirol's vitriol, or Irish Moss. Of its names, Baby Tears is the most common. Both its genus & species names are for Captain Joseph Francois Soleirol (1796-1863) who collected plants in Corsica early in the 19th Century.

A tiny start of Baby Tears was planted in the center of a shady flagstone path. It was not hardy to foot-traffic despite that it is sold as a "stepable" groundcover. It pretty much disappeared from between the flagstones, but not before it had crept out to the edges of the path & grown into a fluffy velvety green carpet. It is lovely under ferns & along the shade-garden's edge, & functions like a surface mulching to help keep soil moist.

Baby TearsThe ultra-miniscule creamy white star-flowers of May & June are insignificant, but the rich green color of the tiny round leaves provides a garden with an impression of a softly fine moss growing in moist shady areas. Although it can be evergreen in areas with scarcely any winter, it is also frost-tender, so in the Pacific Northwest it dies back in winter, but returns reliably in spring.

It can hump up to four or five inches, but in most spots is only an inch high. It's sufficiently delicate that it can't displace other plants, but it does spread rather aggressively, though it also pulls out easily if it seems to be getting into locations it isn't wanted. When removing a particularly clean bit of Baby Tears, it can be taken to the kitchen & used as a substitute for watercress in sandwiches or mixed salads.

It regenerates from any fragment of its tiny creepers, so once established it is a permanent resident of the garden, though it will not creep out into dry or sunny areas so can be contained to isolated shade zones. For sunnier or less moist areas Corsican Mint gives the same general coverage & appearance, & in very sunny dry spots a small creeping thyme can give a like effect. But for deeper shade Baby Tears is the ideal for a mossy-looking quickly spreading very low groundcover.

It is often grown as a house plant, or at the base of larger houseplants, because it thrives in the low lighting conditions of homes & is evergreen at room temperatures. But it must never entirely dry out, so is not the houseplant for anyone who tends to forget to water the pots. It is also a fine terrarium plant for a pet frog or salamander.


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