Silene stellata (Starry Campion)
|Also known as:||Widowsfrill|
|Habitat:||part shade; average to dry; open deciduous woods, river flats, prairies|
|Bloom season:||July - August|
|Plant height:||6 to 20 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Loose, branching clusters of stalked flowers at the top of the plant, sometimes also from the upper leaf axils. Flowers are white, about ¾ inch across, with 5 petals deeply divided into several lobes giving it a frilly appearance. In the center are 10 long, slender, white stamens surrounding a globular green ovary with 3 long, slender, white styles at the top.
The calyx is light green with feint venation, nearly as wide as long, bell shaped with 5 broadly triangular lobes, and a small dimple at the base where the stalk is attached. The calyx and flower stalks are densely covered in short hairs.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are widely spaced along the stem, typically whorled in groups of 4 with the uppermost and lowermost leaves in opposite pairs, the largest leaves around mid-stem, and the lowest leaves withering away by flowering time. Leaves are 1¼ to 4 inches long, ¼ to 1½ inches wide, lance to narrowly egg-shaped with a long taper to a pointed tip, toothless, minutely hairy on both surfaces but more sparsely so on the upper, and stalkless or nearly so.
The leaf node is often swollen and tinged red. Stems are typically unbranched, single or multiple from the base, densely short-hairy in the upper plant and more sparsely so toward the base. Plants may be erect or flop over from the weight of the flowers.
As fruit develops, the calyx inflates and spreads out, becoming nearly triangular in outline. Fruit is a globular capsule; when ripe it opens at the top, with 6 teeth around the opening. Inside are dark brown, kidney-shaped seeds.
Starry Campion is easily distinguished from other Silene species by the frilly petals and leaves whorled in 4s, though we did happen upon a few plants that had opposite leaves along the entire stem. Some references note 2 varieties, but these are not universally recognized and the DNR does not currently make a distinction: var. stellata, with calyx and flower stalks that are hairless or nearly so and is more southern and eastern, and var. scabrella, short-hairy on the calyx and stalks like those plants found in Minnesota.
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- flopping Starry Campion plant
- Starry Campioin plants
- atypical opposite leaves along the entire stem
- a good place to hide!
- flower closer up
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Houston County, and in Whitewater State Park and Whitewater Wildlife Management Area in Winona County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?