Caryophyllaceae: Pink Family — Catchfly & Pink

In the Pink family, leaves are generally opposite on swollen nodes.  Most genera have smallish, regular, 5-petaled and 5-sepaled flowers.  Silene (Catchfly or Campion) has larger, more striking flowers.  A few genera, such Herniaria (Rupturewort) and Cardionema (Sandmat), have petal-like sepals, but lack true petals.

Hairy Pink – Petrorhagia dubia

Blooms:

April–May

Plant Height:

10–60 cm

Flower Size:

Medium

Origin:

Mediterranean

Habitat:

Disturbed areas, roadsides

Notes:

This plant provides dramatic spots of color, seemingly hovering in the air.  Each flower is at the tip of a long, slender stem, has 5 heart-shaped petals and a fusiform (narrowing at both ends) tube.  The petals have distinctive darker veining.  Subtending bracts narrow to a short acute tip.  Leaves are opposite, linear to oblong.

Many-nerved Catchfly – Silene coniflora

Blooms:

Apr–May

Plant Height:

20–65 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Asia

Habitat:

Open areas, burns

Notes:

This is a slender, erect plant, glandular-short-hairy.  It has a distinctive cone-shaped calyx.  The flowers are very small (1–3 mm), white to pale pink.  It seems that the plant is much more often seen in bud or fruit than in flower.

Windmill Pink / Catchfly – Silene gallica

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

10–40 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Europe

Habitat:

Grassy and disturbed areas

Notes:

Common and easily recognized by its one-sided inflorescence, which has a long row of whitish-pink flowers.  The flowers have 5 angled petals, perhaps resembling  tiny windmills.  Like other members of its genus, this has a bladder-shaped calyx, which is glandular-hairy with 10 purplish-striped veins.  Insects can get stuck on the sticky hairs – hence the alternative common name.

Indian Pink – Silene laciniata subsp. californica

Blooms:

Apr–July

Plant Height:

15–30 cm

Flower Size:

Large

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Oak woodlands, chaparral and coniferous forest

Notes:

A low-growing plant with prostrate to decumbent stems and erect, bright red flowers.  These are very distinctive with their 5 petals divided into 4-6 narrow lobes. Each petal has 2 small appendages at its base.  Leaves are broadly lanceolate to ovate, reducing in size towards the top of the stem. There are records of a related subspecies (subsp. laciniata) in the county although this is more usually found in San Luis Obispo county and south.  This subspecies (the right hand photo) has linear to narrowly lanceolate leaves, a narrower calyx and a taller, more open growth habit.

Lemmon’s Catchfly / Campion – Silene lemmonii

Blooms:

May–July

Plant Height:

15–45 cm

Flower Size:

Medium

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Open to partly-shaded woodland

Notes:

Like Indian Pink (Silene laciniata, see above), this catchfly is distinctive, with its finely dissected petals divided into 4 linear lobes.  The flowers are nodding, and may be either white (with a greenish bladder-shaped calyx) or pink (with pink-tinged veins on its calyx).  The calyx has 10 veins.  The exserted stamens are at least as long as the petals.  The 3 styles are even longer.