Silene regia Sims
Family - Caryophyllaceae
Stems - To +1m tall, erect, herbaceous but stout, single or multiple from the base, simple in the basal 2/3, branching in the inflorescence, fistulose, densely retrorse puberulent, densely glandular pubescent in the apex, 4-5mm in diameter.
Leaves - Opposite, sessile, decussate, many pairs per stem, ovate-lanceolate, entire, acuminate, densely puberulent to hispidulous above and below, paler abaxially, to +/-10cm long, +/-4cm broad. Single midrib impressed adaxially, expressed abaxially.
Inflorescence - Terminal and axillary cymes at the apex of the stem. Each division of the cyme subtended by a pair of foliaceous bracts. Bracts reduced upward. Pedicels and bracts densely viscid-glandular. Pedicels typically +/-1cm long.
Flowers - Petals 5, spreading, clawed, 4-5cm long, distinct. Claw to +2cm long, mostly whitish, glabrous but with ciliate margins. Limb to +2cm long, 5-7mm broad, red, oblong, mostly glabrous but with a few hairs along the margins, with some viscid glands, with a shallow notch at the apex or not, with 2 basal appendages at the base of the limb. Appendages subulate, acute, erect, red, +/-5mm long, -2mm broad. Stamens 10, 5 adnate to the base of the petals and 5 alternating with the petals, slightly exserted. Filaments white but darkened near the apex, +2.5cm long, glabrous. Anthers +/-2mm long, greenish-blue. Styles 3, distinct, well exserted, to +3cm long, glabrous, white with purple apices (stigmas). Ovary superior, green, glabrous, cylindric, 7-8mm long, 2mm in diameter (in flower), unilocular. Placentation free-central. Ovules many. Calyx tubular, green, densely viscid glandular externally, glabrous internally, 10-ribbed, accrescent, +/-2.5cm long, truncate and slightly saccate at the base.
Flowering - May - October.
Habitat - Rocky prairies, rocky open woods, thickets, borders of rocky glades, roadsides.
Origin - Native to the U.S.
Other info. - This striking plant can be found in the Ozark region of Missouri but is sometimes cultivated elsewhere. This species is easy to identify in the field because of its brilliant flowers and stems which have many nodes and leaves. Another species, S. virginica L., is similar but is a smaller plant with mostly basal leaves. Both species rival any commonly cultivated plant and should be grown more in home gardens.
Photographs taken off Hwy EE, McDonald County, MO., 8-15-03.