(Silene stellata) Pink family

Flowers - White, about 1/2 in. broad or over, loosely clustered

in a showy, pyramidal panicle. Calyx bell-shaped, swollen,

5-toothed, sticky; 5 fringed and clawed petals; 10 long, exserted

stamens; 3 styles. Stem: Erect, leafy, 2 to 3 1/2 ft. tall,

rough-hairy. Leaves: Oval, tapering to a point, 2 to 4 in. long,

seated in whorls of 4 around stem, or loose ones opposite.

Preferred Habitat - Woods, shady banks.

Flowering Season - June-August.

Distribution - Rhode Island westward to Mississippi, south to the

Carolinas and Arkansas.

Feathery white panicles of the starry campion, whose protruding

stamens and fringed petals give it a certain fleeciness, are

dainty enough for spring; by midsummer we expect plants of ranker

growth and more gaudy flowers. To save the nectar in each deep

tube for the moths and butterflies which cross-fertilize all this

tribe of night and day blossoms, most of them - and the campions

are notorious examples - spread their calices, and some their

pedicels as well, with a sticky substance to entrap little

crawling pilferers. Although a popular name for the genus is

catchfly, it is usually the ant that is glued to the viscid

parts, for the fly that moves through the air alights directly on

the flower it is too short-lipped to suck. An ant catching its

feet on the miniature lime-twig, at first raises one foot after

another and draws it through its mouth, hoping to rid it of the

sticky stuff, but only with the result of gluing up its head and

other parts of the body. In ten minutes all the pathetic

struggles are ended. Let no one guilty of torturing flies to

death on sticky paper condemn the Silenes!

The BLADDER CAMPION (S. vulgaris; S. inflata of Gray) to be

recognized by its much inflated calyx, especially round in fruit,

the two-cleft white petals; and its opposite leaves that are

spatulate at the base of the plant, is a European immigrant now

naturalized and locally very common from Illinois eastward to New

Jersey and north to New Brunswick. Like the night-flowering

catchfly this blossom has adapted itself to the night-flying

moths; but when either remains open in the morning, bumblebees

gladly take the leavings in the deep cup. To insure

cross-fertilization, some of the bladder-campion flowers have

stamens only, some have a pistil only; some have both organs

maturing at different times. In all the night-flowering Silene,

each flower, unless unusually disturbed, lasts three days and

three nights. Late in the afternoon of the first day, when the

petals begin to expand, the five stamens opposite the sepals

lengthen in about two hours, and by sunset the anthers, which

have matured at the same time, are covered with pollen. So they

remain until the forenoon of the second day, and then the emptied

anthers hang like shriveled bags, or drop off altogether. Late in

the second afternoon, the second set of stamens repeat the

actions of their predecessors, bend backward and shed their

anthers the following, that is to say the third, morning. But on

the third afternoon up rise the S-shaped, twisted stigmas, which

until now had been hidden in the center of the flower. Moths,

therefore, must transfer pollen from younger to older blossoms.

"With this lengthening and bending of the stamens and stigmas,"

says Dr. Kerner, "goes hand in hand the opening and shutting of

the corolla. With the approach of dusk, the bifid limbs of the

petals spread out in a flat surface and fall back against the

calyx. In this position they remain through the night, and not

till the following morning do they begin (more quickly in

sunshine and with a mild temperature, more slowly with a cloudy

sky and in cold, wet weather) to curl themselves up in an

in-curved spire, while at the same time they form longitudinal

creases, and look as though they were gathered in, or

wrinkled;...but no sooner does evening return than the wrinkles

disappear, the petals become smooth, uncurl themselves, and fall

back upon the calyx, and the corolla is again expanded."

Curiously enough, these flowers, which by day we should certainly

say were not fragrant, give forth a strong perfume at evening the

better to guide moths to their feast. From eight in the evening

until three in the morning the fragrance is especially strong.

The white blossoms, so conspicuous at night, have little

attraction for color-loving butterflies and bees by day; then, as

there is no pollen to be carried from the shriveled anther sacs,

no visitor is welcome, and the petals close to protect the nectar

for the flower's true benefactors. Indeed, few flowers show more

thorough adaptation to the night-flying moths than these Silene.

STARGRASS COLICROOT SWAMP ROSEMALLOW MALLOW ROSE facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail