Silene L. s.l.

(incl. Atocion Adans., Cucubalus L., Eudianthe (Reichenb.) Reichenb., Lychnis L., Melandrium Röhl., Viscaria Bernh.)

Current knowledge on Silene and related genera is stored here:

Silene, as here accepted (see Mabberley 2008), is a large genus of ca. 700 species, mostly distributed in the northern hemisphere. Numerous split-off genera are better accommodated in a largely circumscribed genus Silene although its monophyly is not well supported. Oxelman & al. (2000) suggested that Eudianthe be restored as a genus and that Viscaria, Heliosperma and Atocion should also be recognized as genera. While these genera tend to form well-supported clades within Sileneae the relationships between these clades and Silene remain unclear and it is still possible that they are nested within Silene (Greenberg & Donoghue 2011). Pending further studies Silene is here interpreted in a broad sense.

Nine species are usually considered to be native in Belgium (Lambinon & Verloove 2012) although residence status of at least some is critical. Silene dioica (L.) Clairv., S. flos-cuculi (L.) Greuter et Burdet (syn.: Lychnis flos-cuculi L.), S. latifolia Poiret subsp. alba (Mill.) Greuter et Burdet, S. nutans L., S. viscaria (L.) Jessen (syn.: Lychnis viscaria L.) and S. vulgaris (Moench) Garcke are doubtlessly native. Silene armeria L. is a very local and rare native (on thermophilous rocks in the valley of river Sûre) but much more common and widespread as an escape from cultivation. Finally, Silene conica L. and S. noctiflora L., both mostly confined to disturbed habitats, are probably rather archaeophytic. Silene gallica has also been claimed as a native species but this seems rather unlikely. Several species of Silene s.l. are cultivated as ornamentals (see Walters 1989 and Jäger & al. 2008 for an overview for Europe). Many others are reputed weeds of agricultural fields. As such, some of the native species (viz. S. conica and S. noctiflora) regularly occur as aliens in port areas, mainly where cereals are debarked. Similarly, cultivated races of native Silene vulgaris might occur as escapes in urban habitats, for instance on old walls as has been the case in Amsterdam (the Netherlands; see Denters 2009). The exact identity of these plants requires further study; they have been tentatively ascribed to subsp. glareosa (Jord.) Marsden-Jones et Turrill (syn.: S. uniflora Roth subsp. glareosa (Jord.) Chater et Walters, S. glareosa Jord.). It possibly passes unrecorded in Belgium as well and should be looked for. Another related species, Silene csereii might also have been overlooked (Wallnöfer & al. 2012). Finally, Silene antirrhina L., a native of North America, might also have been overlooked. It is a fairly frequent grain alien in large parts of Europe and is much reminiscent of S. cretica. However, its calyx is not contracted at mouth (see also Henrard 1918).

In the key beneath the branching pattern of the inflorescence is not taken into account (monochasial versus dichasial). This character surely provides a useful identification feature but is less obvious in poorly developed plants (which is often the case in adventive plants).

1       Fruit a berry. Stem sprawling and flaccid, much branched. Petals greenish-white === Silene baccifera

         Fruit a dehiscent capsule. Stem never sprawling and flaccid. Petals usually pinkish or whitish === 2

2       Number of capsule teeth and styles equal, five === 3

         Number of capsule teeth twice as many of styles === 6

3       Entire plant white-woolly === S. coronaria

         Plant glabrous or slightly pubescent, never woolly === 4

4       Petal limb nearly divided to base in 4 narrow lobes (native) === S. flos-cuculi

         Petal limb divided less than ½ to base in 2 lobes === 5

5       Inflorescence capitate, flowers densely clustered. Petals scarlet. Stem not viscid === S. chalcedonica

         Inflorescence a lax, spike-like panicle. Petals purplish. Stem viscid below upper nodes (native) === S. viscaria

6       Styles 5 === 7

         Styles 3 === 8

7       Glabrous annual. Petals bright pink. Flowers all monoecious. Carpophore 5-12 mm long. Leaves linear-lanceolate === S. coeli-rosa

         Pubescent perennial (or biennial). Petals white or pinkish-red, rarely pink. Flowers dioecious. Carpophore less than 2 mm long. Leaves ovate (native) === S. dioica and S. latifolia

8       Perennial, usually with non-flowering shoots === 9

         Annual, never with non-flowering shoots === 12

9       Calyx strongly inflated, 20-veined (strongly reticulate) (native) === S. vulgaris

         Calyx not inflated, 10-veined === 10

10     Mat-forming with prostrate to ascending stems. Petals reddish purple. Calyx 20-25 mm long === S. schafta

         Stems more or less erect. Petals cream. Calyx (6-) 9-20 mm long === 11

11     Calyx 14-20 mm long. Carpophore ca. 8-9 mm long, about as long as the capsule. Petals with inconspicuous coronal scales === S. italica

         Calyx (6-) 9-14 mm long. Carpophore ca. 2-4 mm long, much shorter than the capsule. Petals with conspicuous coronal scales (native) === S. nutans

12     Calyx 30-veined === 13

         Calyx 10-veined === 14

13     Capsule (12-)15-18 mm long. Seeds (1-) 1,2-1,5 mm long. Claw of petal glabrous at base === S. conoidea

         Capsule 7-12 mm long. Seeds (0,5-) 0,7-0,9 mm long. Claw of petal hairy at base (native) === S. conica

14     Calyx densely hairy, at least on the veins (hairs often glandular and/or multicellular) === 15

         Calyx glabrous (but teeth often ciliate at margin) === 19

15     Fruiting pedicels patent or deflexed. Petals pink === S. pendula

         Fruiting pedicels erect. Petals white or pink, sometimes absent === 16

16     Calyx not contracted at mouth. Petals very inconspicuous or absent === S. nocturna

         Calyx contracted at mouth. Petals showy === 17

17     Carpophore glabrous. Petals white === S. dichotoma

         Carpophore pubescent. Petals pinkish or creamy-white === 18

18     Calyx 7-10 mm long. Petal limb 4-6 mm long, usually pinkish (rarely whitish). Plant flowering during day === S. gallica

         Calyx 18-30 mm long. Petal limb 10-15 mm long, creamy-white. Plant flowering at night (native) === S. noctiflora

19     Inflorescence compact, corymbose. Petals dark pink. Carpophore 7-10 mm long (native) === S. armeria

         Inflorescence lax, not corymbose. Petals paler. Carpophore 1,5-5 mm long === 20

20     Pedicel of the central flower (alar flower) 20-50 mm long === S. cretica

         Pedicel of the central flower at most 15 mm long === 21

21     Calyx with 5 wings === S. stricta

         Calyx without wings === 22

22     Plant entirely glabrous. Seeds with cylindrical tubercles === S. behen

         Plant pubescent, at least in the lower half. Seeds with conical tubercles === S. muscipula

Additional aliens: Silene csereii Baumg. (syn.: S. fabaria (L.) Sibth. et Smith subsp. csereii (Baumg.) Nyman) (SE-Eur., W-As., wool alien), S. otites (L.) Wibel (N and C-Eur., grain alien), S. scabriflora Brot. (SW-Eur., NW-Afr., seed alien) and S. viscosa (L.) Pers. (C and E-Eur., wool alien).


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Taxonomic name: 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith