T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Silene gallica (Catchfly)

Kingdom: Plantae
(Unranked): Angiosperms
(Unranked): Eudicots
(Unranked): Core eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Caryophyllaceae
Genus: Silene
Species: S. gallica  (three variations)
Binomial name: Silene gallica
Common name: Catchfly, Windmill pink, Common Catchfly, Small-flowered Catchfly, Gunpowder-weed

Silene gallica is a species of annual flowering plant in the pink family with three colour forms, all commonly found in New Zealand flowering October to February.
Silene gallica has pale pink flowers.
Silene gallica var. anglica has white flowers.
Silene gallica var. quinquevulnera has white petals with a dark crimson spot in the centre of each.

It is native to Eurasia and North Africa, but it can be found throughout much of the temperate world as a common roadside weed. It is an annual herb growing up to 40 or 45 centimeters tall, its branching stem coated in long, curling hairs and shorter, glandular sticky hairs. The sticky hairs on the plant do catch tiny insects as the common name Catchfly suggests, but they are not used for the nutrition of the plant.
The lance-shaped leaves are up to 3.5 centimeters long low on the plant, and smaller on the upper parts.
Flowers occur in a terminal inflorescence at the top of the stem, and some appear in the leaf axils. Each hermaphrodite flower has a tubular calyx of fused sepals lined with ten green or purple-red veins. It is coated in long hairs.. It is open at the tip, revealing five white, pink or bicoloured petals, each with a small appendage at the base. The flowers are small, under 1 cm in diameter, and well-spaced on a flower spike of 5-10 flowers.
Its habitat is sand, coastal soil, commonly on the edges of paths, occasionally inland in suitable poor soil.

Derivation of the botanical name: Silene, probably from Greek sialon, "saliva," referring to gummy exudation on stems, and/or named for Silenus, intoxicated foster-father of Bacchus (god of wine) who was covered with foam, much like the glandular secretions of many species of this genus. Gallica means from France.

Silene gallica can have pink flowers


Stem and leaves 




Silene gallica var. quinquevulnera has white petals with a dark crimson splash in the centre of each petal. The leaves in photo are of another plant.










Silene gallica var. anglica has white flowers.