Silene dioica

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Silene dioica
Bayrischer Wald 9929.JPG
Silene dioica (red campion)
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Caryophyllaceae
Genus: Silene
S. dioica
Binomial name
Silene dioica
    • Agrostemma sylvestre (Schkuhr) G.Don
    • Lychnis arvensis G.Gaertn., B.Mey. & Scherb.
    • Lychnis dioecia Mill.
    • Lychnis dioica L.
    • Lychnis dioica subsp. rubra Weigel
    • Lychnis diurna Sibth.
    • Lychnis diurna var. glaberrima Sekera
    • Lychnis preslii Sekera
    • Lychnis rosea Salisb.
    • Lychnis rubra Patze, E.Mey. & Elkan
    • Lychnis silvestris Rafn
    • Lychnis sylvestris Schkuhr
    • Lychnis vespertina Sibth.
    • Melandrium dioicum (L.) Coss. & Germ.
    • Melandrium dioicum f. glaberrimum (Sekera) D.Löve
    • Melandrium dioicum f. lacteum (Hartm.) D.Löve
    • Melandrium dioicum subsp. glaberrimum (Celak.) Soják
    • Melandrium dioicum subsp. rubrum (Weigel) D.Löve
    • Melandrium dioicum var. zetlandicum Compton
    • Melandrium diurnum Fr.
    • Melandrium preslii (Sekera) Nyman
    • Melandrium purpureum Rupr.
    • Melandrium rubrum (Weigel) Garcke
    • Melandrium stenophyllum Schur
    • Saponaria dioica (L.) Moench
    • Silene dioica f. lactea (Hartm.) Meusel & K.Werner
    • Silene dioica subsp. glaberrima (Celak.) Soják
    • Silene dioica var. glaberrima (K.Malý) Meusel & K.Werner
    • Silene dioica var. glabrescens (Schur) Meusel & K.Werner
    • Silene dioica var. glandulosa (Brügger) Kerguélen
    • Silene dioica var. pygmaea (Ser.) Meusel & K.Werner
    • Silene dioica var. serpentinicola (Rune) Ericsson
    • Silene dioica var. smithii (Rune) Ericsson
    • Silene dioica var. stenophylla (Schur) Meusel & K.Werner
    • Silene dioica var. zetlandica (Compton) Kerguélen
    • Silene diurna Gren. & Godr.
    • Silene hornemannii Steud.
    • Silene latifolia Hornem.
    • Silene rubra Burnat

Silene dioica (syn. Melandrium rubrum), known as red campion[2] and red catchfly,[3] is a herbaceous flowering plant in the family Caryophyllaceae, native throughout central, western and northern Europe, and locally in southern Europe. It has been introduced in Iceland, Canada, the US, and Argentina.[1]


It is a biennial or perennial plant, with dark pink to red flowers, each 1.8-2.5 cm across. There are five petals which are deeply notched at the end, narrowed at the base and all go into an urn-shaped calyx. As indicated by the specific name, male and female flowers are borne on separate plants (dioecious), the male with 10 stamens and a 10-veined calyx, the female with 5 styles and a 20-veined calyx. The fruit, produced from July onwards, is an ovoid capsule containing numerous seeds, opening at the apex by 10 teeth which curve back. The flowers are unscented. The flowering period is from May to October and the flowers are frequently visited by flies such as Rhingia campestris.[4] The plant grows to 30–90 cm, with branching stems. The deep green leaves are in opposite and decussate pairs, simple acute ovate, 3–8 cm long with an untoothed margin; both the leaves and stems of the plant are hairy and slightly sticky. The upper leaves are stalkless.


Silene dioica is native to northern and central Europe [1] and is locally abundant throughout the British Isles.[5] It is generally common in Northern Ireland,[6] but rare elsewhere in Ireland.[7] The plant is common on the Isle of Man where it is known as "blaa ny ferrishyn" or "fairy flower", and has a local taboo against picking it.[8]

Red campion grows in roadsides, woodlands, and rocky slopes. It prefers to grow on damp, non-acid soils.[9]

Plants of Silene latifolia × Silene dioica = Silene × hampeana that are fertile hybrids with the closely related white campion (Silene latifolia) are common in some areas. They may have paler pink flowers and be intermediate between the two species in other characters.[10]


The flowers of red-campion along with a number of other Caryophyllaceae members, are very susceptible to a smut (fungus) infection. In this case by Microbotryum silenes-dioicae known as anther-smut[11] which appears as a mass of brown spores in the mouth of the flower where the anthers would normally be.


A Lychnis moth caterpillar feeding on the seeds of red campion (Silene dioica).

This plant is used as an ornamental perennial flower for the perennial border. One particularly notable variety is a hot pink, double flowered variety with deep green leaves called 'Firefly'.

The nectar of the flowers is utilised by bumblebees and butterflies, and several species of moth feed on the foliage.


  1. ^ a b "Silene dioica (L.) Clairv". Plants of the World Online. Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  2. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  3. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Silene dioica". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  4. ^ Van Der Kooi, C. J.; Pen, I.; Staal, M.; Stavenga, D. G.; Elzenga, J. T. M. (2015). "Competition for pollinators and intra-communal spectral dissimilarity of flowers". Plant Biology. 18 (1): 56–62. doi:10.1111/plb.12328. PMID 25754608.
  5. ^ Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G. and Warburg, E.F. 1962. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press.
  6. ^ Hackney, P.(Ed) 1992. Stewart & Corry's Flora of the North-east of Ireland. Third Edition Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen's University of Belfast. ISBN 0-85389-446-9
  7. ^ Webb, D.A., Parnell, J. and Doogue, D. 1998. An Irish Flora. Seventh Revised Edition. Dundalgan Press (W. Tempest) Ltd. Dundalk. ISBN 0-85221-131-7
  8. ^ Moore, A.W. (1924). A Vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx Dialect. Oxford University Press.
  9. ^ EnchantedForest: Red Campion Archived 2006-05-21 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Stace, C. A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles (Third ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. pp. 473. ISBN 9780521707725.
  11. ^ Hood, M. E.; Mena-Alí, J. I.; Gibson, A. K.; Oxelman, B.; Giraud, T.; Yockteng, R.; Arroyo, M. T.; Conti, F.; Pedersen, A. B.; Gladieux, P.; Antonovics, J. (July 2010). "Distribution of the anther-smut pathogen Microbotryum on species of the Caryophyllaceae". The New Phytologist. NCBI. 187 (1): 217–229. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03268.x. PMC 3487183. PMID 20406409.