Campions & Catchflies

Spanish Catchfly Red Campion Bladder Campion Rose Campion

What are they?

The campions and catchflies are closely related to each other and form a fairly large group of species with the Caryophyllaceae, a family that also includes such well known-plants as pinks, carnations, chickweeds and sweet-williams. This is a rather diverse group, but most have five petals that are white or shades of pink or red. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs on the stems and many species have sticky hairs, earning them the name of 'catchfly'.

Where are they found?

These are mostly plants of open, grassy places, while a number of them occur as garden escapes or introductions. One or two are rather more local or specialised in their distribution and may only be found on or near beaches, or in particular ecological regions such as Breckland.

Identification

Petal colour and, in particular, details of the calyx (which is often ribbed and/or inflated) are very important to note. Leaf shape and details of hairs on the leaves and stems should all be noted.



Common Corncockle      Agrostemma githago

Though not native, this species was probably introduced to Britain during Roman times and has a long association as a cornfield weed. Now almost certainly extinct as a naturalised alien, this species is frequently found where sown as part of a 'cornfield' seed mix. Flowers June to August. A distinctive species, due to its very long sepals and hairy, lanceolate leaves.

Common Corncockle Common Corncockle Common Corncockle
Flower
Calyx
Leaf


Rose Campion      Silene coronaria

Introduced and long grown as a garden plant. Occasionally found surviving as a short-lived perennial on roadsides and waste places. Flowers April to July. Easily identified by its combination of grey-furry foliage and stems and its distinctive, velvet-red flowers.

Rose Campion Rose Campion Rose Campion Rose Campion
Habit
Flower
Calyx
Leaves


Ragged-Robin      Silene flos-cuculi

A widespread species found in a variety of wetlands from open grazing meadows to wet woodland rides. Flowers late April to July. A very distinctive plant with its deeply cut petals.

Ragged-Robin Ragged-Robin Ragged-Robin
Habit
Flower
Flower


Red Campion      Silene dioica

Widespread and common on loamy soils but rare in much of Breckland and Fenland. Flowers April to September. Pure Red Campion is easy to find in woodlands but populations in more open landscapes often include many hybrids with White Campion.

Red Campion Red Campion Red Campion Red Campion
Habit
Habit
Flower
Leaves


Hybrid Campion      Silene x hampeana

Common where the two parents - Red and White Campion - meet. Flowers April to September. First generation hybrids tend to be intermediate between the parents, especially in the pale pink flowers, but the hybrids are fertile so further hybridisation and back-crossing with the original parent species produces a wide range of variants.

Hybrid Campion
Flower


White Campion      Silene latifolia

Originally introduced perhaps as early as the Bronze Age and now a widespread plant of all kinds of cultivated and disturbed ground. Flowers April to September or later. The petals are rather variable and may or may not have small side lobes.

White Campion White Campion White Campion White Campion
Habit
Flower
Calyx
Leaves


Night-flowering Catchfly      Silene noctiflora

Introduced perhaps as early as the Iron Age, this plant was once widespread in cultivated ground but a long term decline continues and parts of East Anglia - especially Breckland - now hold a major percentage of the UK population. Flowers July to September. An unusual plant with flowers that open at night, the petals rolling in on themselves during the day. Petals are very pale pink on the upper side and a peculiar, yellowish-pink on the reverse. Looks very similar to White Campion and often grows with it as a weed of Sugar Beet crops, but can be told by its much narrower calyx and by the three (not five) styles.

Night-flowering Catchfly Night-flowering Catchfly Night-flowering Catchfly Night-flowering Catchfly
Flower open in early morning
Flower half rolled
Calyx
Leaf


Forked Campion      Silene dichotoma

A rare introduction, perhaps with imported grain or birdseed but never persisting for long. Last recorded in Cambridgeshire in 1962, with a couple of older records from Suffolk. Flowers May to June or later. Similar to White Campion in overall appearance but the flowers appear on elongated, forking stems and have very inflated calyxes.

Forked Campion Forked Campion
Habit
Habit


Bladder Campion      Silene vulgaris

Widespread throughout the region but with a rather patchy distribution. A perennial species of grassy places. Flowers June to August. Easily told from White Campion by its usually hairless stems and leaves, deeply cut petals and greatly inflated calyx.

Bladder Campion Bladder Campion Bladder Campion
Flowers
Flowers
Leaves


Sea Campion      Silene uniflora

Common along the coast in dunes and on shingle beaches and on sandier parts of saltmarshes. Flowers June to August. A low-growing plant with fleshy leaves, the whole plant covered in a mass of white flowers during the summer.

Sea Campion Sea Campion Sea Campion Sea Campion
Habit
Flower
Calyx
Leaves


Nottingham Catchfly      Silene nutans

A rare native in the UK, but only occurs as a rare introduction in East Anglia with a small handful of Suffolk records. Flowers May to August. The pendulous flowers with deeply cut petals and sticky-haired stems are distinctive.

Nottingham Catchfly Nottingham Catchfly Nottingham Catchfly
Habit
Flowers
Flower


Spanish Catchfly      Silene otites

A rare native in the UK, confined to the Breckland heaths in East Anglia. Flowers June to August. An unusual catchfly with petals reduced to very narrow, creamy yellow straps; flowers mostly either male or female, but some bisexual.

Spanish Catchfly Spanish Catchfly Spanish Catchfly Spanish Catchfly
Habit
Male flower
Female flower
Leaf


Small-flowered Catchfly      Silene gallica

A once widespread weed of arable and disturbed, sandy ground, this species is now rare in our region, though conservation measures to restore it to some former sites mean that it still continues to survive. Flowers June to September. As well as the white form illustrated, there is a form with a red botch on each petal. A small plant, usually no more than 30cm high with small flowers in an upright spike.

Small-flowered Catchfly Small-flowered Catchfly Small-flowered Catchfly Small-flowered Catchfly
Habit
Flower
Calyx
Leaf


Sand Catchfly      Silene conica

A nationally scarce species, in our area more or less confined to disturbed, sandy areas in Breckland with small, relict populations in Northeast Norfolk and East Suffolk. Flowers May to June. A small and therefore easily overlooked plant, but when occurring in good number it can be surprisingly eye-catching. Flowers brilliant pink with broadly inflated calyxes.

Sand Catchfly Sand Catchfly Sand Catchfly Sand Catchfly
Habit
Flower
Flower
Calyx after flowering


Berry Catchfly      Silene baccifera

A rare species, long established after an earlier introduction in West Norfolk. Flowers June to August. A peculiar member of the campion family; plants grow laxly, trailing on neighbouring vegetation to a metre or so high. The strangely-shaped flowers are followed by a black berry - unique in the family.

Berry Catchfly Berry Catchfly Berry Catchfly Berry Catchfly
Flower
Flower
Leaf
Berry and calyx


Rose-of-heaven      Silene coeli-rosa

Introduced from southern Europe as a garden plant and occasionally appearing as a short-lived annual where 'wildflower' seed has been spilt. Flowers June to August. Flowers typically with deeply notched petals, but some modern cultivated varieties have broader, rounded petals that are only shallowly notched. Petals typically deep pink, but may be white or pale lilac.

Rose-of-heaven Rose-of-heaven Rose-of-heaven Rose-of-heaven
Flower
Flower
Calyx
Leaves


Sweet-William Catchfly      Silene armeria

Introduced from southern Europe as a garden plant and recorded from Ipswich in 1908, but not since. Flowers June to August. Flowers are typically those of a catchfly, but are clustered in flat-topped heads.

Sweet-William Catchfly Sweet-William Catchfly Sweet-William Catchfly Sweet-William Catchfly
Flowers
Flower
Flowers
Leaves


Common Soapwort      Saponaria officinalis

Introduced from southern Europe as a garden plant and now quite widespread on roadsides and grassy places. Flowers July to September. A spreading perennial that can form quite extensive stands of vegetation. Flowers carried in whorls on upright spikes; sometimes found in its double-flowered form.

Common Soapwort Common Soapwort Common Soapwort Common Soapwort
Habit
Flower
Double flowers
Leaf


Rock Soapwort      Saponaria ocymoides

Introduced from southern Europe as a garden rockery plant and occasionally found in the wider countryside, but rarely persisting for long. Flowers July to September. A low, creeping or trailing perennial that is showy when in flower but rather unobtrusive when not flowering.

Rock Soapwort Rock Soapwort Rock Soapwort
Habit
Flowers
Leaves