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Published In: Species Plantarum 1: 416. 1753. (1 May 1753) (Sp. Pl.) Name publication detailView in BotanicusView in Biodiversity Heritage Library

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 8/26/2009)
Acceptance : Accepted
Project Data     (Last Modified On 8/10/2009)


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17. Silene L. (campion, catchfly)

(Oxelman et al. 2001; Morton 2005c)

Plants annual, biennial, or perennial, sometimes dioecious (in Missouri, only S. dioica and S. latifolia). Stems erect to spreading, sometimes reclining, branched or unbranched, glabrous or sparsely to densely pubescent with nonglandular hairs and/or stalked glands, sometimes glaucous. Leaves opposite or whorled (in S. stellata), fused basally into a sheath or sometimes clasping the stem, petiolate (basal leaves) or sessile (most stem leaves), usually lacking axillary clusters of leaves (these occasionally present at few to several nodes in some species). Stipules absent. Leaf blades linear to lanceolate, elliptic, obovate, or spatulate, not succulent (except in S. csereii), tapered to rounded or cordate at the base, angled or tapered to a bluntly or sharply pointed tip, occasionally tapered abruptly to a minute, sharp point. Flowers in terminal, open panicles or clusters, occasionally solitary and terminal, the stalks erect or ascending at flowering and fruiting or sometimes nearly absent, the bracts paired and resembling small leaves, with herbaceous and green or less commonly thin and white margins. Epicalyx absent. Flowers perfect or all staminate or pistillate (in S. dioica and S. latifolia). Sepals 5, fused most of their length into a tube, this (8–)10–30-nerved, these green or sometimes whitish, reddish, or greenish purple, sometimes inflated and/or papery, variously herbaceous and green or membranous to papery and translucent or white to purplish-tinged between the nerves, the lobes linear to lanceolate, oblong, or broadly triangular, much shorter than the tube, angled or tapered to a bluntly or sharply pointed tip, not appearing hooded or awned, the margins white or purplish-tinged. Petals 5 or rarely absent, when present oblanceolate to narrowly obovate or spatulate, tapered to a stalklike base, rounded to more or less truncate at the tip, sometimes notched or 2(4–12)-lobed, otherwise irregularly toothed or rarely entire, white, creamy white, pink, purplish pink, or red, sometimes with a pair of small appendages on the upper surface at the base of the expanded portion. Stamens 10 (absent in pistillate flowers), the filaments distinct or fused into a short tube basally. Staminodes absent (rarely 1–10 and linear to hairlike in pistillate flowers). Pistil with 1 locule or appearing 3–5-locular toward the base, the ovary sessile or appearing stalked (small and nonfunctional in staminate flowers). Styles 3(4) or 5 (absent in staminate flowers), when present distinct, each with a stigmatic area along the inner side. Fruits capsules, opening by 3(4) or 5 valves (sometimes each split at the tip) or by 6(8) or 10 spreading or outward-curled teeth. Seeds 15–100(–500 or more), kidney-shaped to nearly globose, the surface usually tuberculate or with small papillae, reddish brown to gray, dark brown, or black, lacking wings or appendages. About 650 (or more) species, North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, introduced nearly worldwide.

The present circumscription of Silene follows that of Oxelman et al. (2001), who defined the tribe Sileneae as comprising eight genera. Four of these are represented in Missouri: Agrostemma, Atocion, Lychnis, and Silene. Most of the nonnative species encountered in Missouri originally were brought into the United States as garden ornamentals or as contaminants in other seeds. A number of species are still cultivated in gardens today.


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1 Flowers either staminate or pistillate, the plants dioecious; pistillate flowers with (4)5 styles, the fruits dehiscing by (8)10 teeth (2)
+ Flowers all perfect, the plants not dioecious; styles 3(–5), the fruits dehiscing by 6(8 or 10) teeth or rarely by 3 valves that may split to produce 6 teeth (3)
2 (1) Petals deep pink, the flowers opening during the day; lower portion of the stem pubescent with long, spreading hairs 6. Silene dioica
+ Petals white, the flowers opening at night; lower portion of the stem pubescent with a mixture of short, stiff, nonglandular hairs (somewhat roughened to the touch) and stalked glands 8. Silene latifolia
3 (1) Petals bright red (4)
+ Petals white, creamy white, or pink, rarely red or absent (5)
4 (3) Petals entire or with a few fine teeth toward the tip, rarely notched (but then lacking additional lobes); stem leaves in (6–)10–20 pairs, these larger than the basal leaves, which are withered or absent at flowering, the blades ovate to lanceolate; stems (35–)50–120 cm tall 11. Silene regia
+ Petals with 2 tapered lobes at the tip, usually also with a pair of smaller lateral lobes (often appearing somewhat fringed); stem leaves in 2–4 pairs, these much smaller than the prominent basal leaves, the blades broadly oblanceolate to narrowly elliptic; stems 20–80 cm tall 13. Silene virginica
5 (3) Stem leaves in whorls of 4 12. Silene stellata
+ Stem leaves opposite or the leaves mostly basal (6)
6 (5) Sepal tube with 20–30 parallel nerves, occasionally with a network of nerves between them (7)
+ Sepal tube with (8)10 parallel nerves, with or without a network of nerves between them, or sometimes the nerves obscure (8)
7 (6) Plants hairy, not glaucous; sepal tube (15–)20–25 mm long, pubescent with stalked glands, the 25–30 nerves prominent 3. Silene conoidea
+ Plants glabrous, strongly glaucous; sepal tube 7–10 mm long, glabrous, the 20 nerves not prominent 4. Silene csereii
8 (6) Sepal tube uniformly green or purplish, not clearly pale between the mostly obscure nerves; stems glabrous or at most somewhat roughened toward the base; petals white (9)
+ Sepal tube nerves conspicuous and green, the tissue between the nerves pale; stems roughened-hairy or with stalked glands, rarely glabrous; petals white, creamy white, pink, red, or rarely absent (11)
9 (8) Stems green, not glaucous; inflorescence bracts slightly smaller than the foliage leaves, the margins herbaceous and green; flowers often appearing solitary; sepal tube glabrous or at most roughened toward the base, the nerves parallel, without a network of nerves between them 9. Silene nivea
+ Stems appearing gray, glaucous; inflorescence bracts much smaller than the foliage leaves, at least some with the margins thin and white; inflorescences well-developed clusters; sepal tube glabrous, the nerves parallel and occasionally with a network of veins between them (10)
10 (9) Sepal tube 7–10 mm long, more or less ellipsoid, narrowed at both ends and tightly enclosing the fruit, the nerves mostly parallel; inflorescences slender panicles, but often forked at the base 4. Silene csereii
+ Sepal tube 11–15 mm long, bell-shaped, ascending to somewhat spreading at the tip and not tightly enclosing the fruit, the nerves mostly anastomosing; inflorescences open clusters or panicles 14. Silene vulgaris (Moench) Garcke subsp. vulgaris
11 (8) Sepal tube 15–25 mm long; petals creamy white or pink (12)
+ Sepal tube 5–12(–15) mm long; petals mostly white, sometimes tinged with pink or red, rarely entirely red or absent (13)
12 (11) Stems 8–20(–25) cm tall, the leaves mostly basal; flowers opening during the day; petals pink, the tip entire or with wavy margins 2. Silene caroliniana subsp. wherryi
+ Stems 25–75 cm tall, the stems leafy; flowers opening at night; petals creamy white, often faintly pinkish-tinged, the tip 2-lobed 10. Silene noctiflora
13 (11) Stems glabrous or with short, soft, downward-angled hairs toward the base, often with reddish brown to purplish black, sticky patches along the upper internodes; flower stalks (5–)10–25(–35) cm long; petals mostly white, tinged with pink or red, rarely entirely red, rarely entirely red or absent 1. Silene antirrhina
+ Stems roughened with downward-angled hairs throughout or roughened toward the base and with stalked glands toward the tip, lacking sticky patches; flower stalks absent or to 0.5 cm long; petals white (14)
14 (13) Inflorescences often forked basally; sepal tube with long, spreading hairs; petals 2-lobed at the tip 5. Silene dichotoma Ehrh. subsp. dichotoma
+ Inflorescences usually not forked basally; sepal tube with a mixture of long, nonglandular hairs and short, stalked glands; petals entire or notched at the tip 7. Silene gallica
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