Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Caryophyllaceae (Pink)
Life cycle:perennial
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed soil; roadsides, abandoned fields, ditches, trail edges, clearings
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:12 to 30 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] A tight, flat to dome-shaped cluster of 5 to 30 flowers at the top of the stem and the occasional branching stem in the upper plant. Flowers are about 1/3 inch across with 5 broad petals that are toothed or fringed along the tip edge. Color varies from nearly white to bright pink to deep red, often bi-color with lighter or darker spots. In the center are 10 stamens with purplish tips.

[photo of bracts] The calyx surrounding flower forms a slender, green tube about ½ inch long with 5 triangular lobes. Around the base are several linear to awl-shaped bracts about as long as the calyx. The calyx and bracts are hairless.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are opposite, up to 3 inches long and to about ¾ inch wide, lance-elliptic, pointed at the tip, toothless, hairless except sometimes finely hairy around the edges.

[photo of leaf node and stem] Leaf pairs are joined at the base and swollen at the node. Stems are erect, round to weakly 4-sided, green, hairless, unbranched or sometimes branched in the upper stem.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is an oval to cylindric capsule about as long as the calyx, open at the top with 4 teeth around the mouth. Inside are numerous tiny, blackish-brown seeds.


Sweet William is an introduction brought in through the gardening trade and occasionally escapes cultivation. It is more common in Wisconsin and New England but is likely more widespread in Minnesota than records indicate. I've encountered it twice in Ramsey County, both times in county parks, once near a lake shore with low traffic and once in the mow zone along a paved trail. Both could have escaped from nearby residential landscapes but neither appeared to be particularly competitive with other weeds in the area. The lake shore population didn't persist more than a few years, likely drowned out from seasonal flooding.

Sweet William is recognized by the opposite leaves joined at the base, tight flat or dome-shaped cluster at the top of the stem, flowers with 5 broad petals toothed or fringed along the outer edge, and the many slender bracts. There are numerous cultivars in the garden trade and flower color varies from nearly white to deep maroon and all shades of pink in between, and variously spotted or not. Its leaves and petals are both broader than the other weedy Dianthus species known to be in Minnesota.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Spangle Creek Labs - Native orchids, lab propagated
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Landscape Alternatives

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Ramsey County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Natalie Morrigan - Maplewood,MN
on: 2020-06-28 08:31:49

Present at Fish Creek Bluff Preserve, along with a lot of other invasive plants like sweet clover and crown vetch.

Posted by: Angela Mallery - Center city
on: 2022-06-18 18:53:31

This year I has 100s of these!

Posted by: Calandria Olson - Koochiching County
on: 2023-11-21 12:51:41

I saw this flower near the Old Hudson Bay Watercraft Campsite, on the Big Fork River.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.