Silene stellata (L.) W.T. Aiton

Starry Campion


CC = 5
CW = 5
MOC = 76

© DETenaglia

Family - Caryophyllaceae

Habit - Perennial forb with a thick, branched rootstock.

Stems - Ascending to erect, to 1.1 m, occasionally from a spreading base, unbranched below the inflorescence, moderately to densely pubescent with short, spreading to downward-curled, soft hairs, sometimes nearly glabrous toward the base.

Silene_stellata_stem.jpg Stem.

© DETenaglia

Leaves - Opposite or in whorls of 4, simple. Basal leaves usually absent at flowering, when present shorter than the largest stem leaves, sessile or short-petiolate. Stem leaves in whorls of 4, mostly 6-12 pairs, short-petiolate to more commonly sessile. Leaf blades 3-10 cm long, lanceolate, angled or tapered at the base, tapered to a sharply pointed tip.

Silene_stellata_leaves1.jpg Stem and leaves.

© SRTurner

Silene_stellata_leaves.jpg Leaf whorl.

© DETenaglia

Inflorescence - Terminal racemes or panicles with flowers opposite, decussate. Pedicels 0.5-2.5 cm long, tomentose, each subtended by a linear bract to 1 cm long, 1.2 mm broad with green, herbaceous margins.

Silene_stellata_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence detail.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Perfect. Sepals 7-12 mm long, the tube with 10 faint nerves and sometimes with a very faint network of fine, irregularly anastomosing veins, deeply cup-shaped to bell-shaped, green, pale between the nerves, glabrous or minutely hairy, the lobes broadly triangular, green, bluntly to sharply pointed at the tip, with herbaceous and green or less commonly thin and white margins. Petals 5, 13-16 mm long, clawed, the expanded portion 5-8 mm long, irregularly 4-12-lobed (appearing more or less fringed) at the tip, white, lacking appendages. Stamens 10, typically protruding beyond corolla, erect. Filaments white, glabrous. Anthers 2.5-3.0 mm long. Styles 3, erect, exserted, whitish, glabrous, 5 mm long.

Silene_stellata_calyx.jpg Calyx.

© DETenaglia

Silene_stellata_flower.jpg Corolla.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - Capsules 6-8 mm long, dehiscing apically by 6 teeth, with a stalklike basal portion 2-3 mm long. Seeds 1.0-1.5 mm wide, kidney-shaped, the surface with fine papillae, dark brown to grayish black.

Silene_stellata_fruits1.jpg Fruiting calyces.

© SRTurner

Silene_stellata_fruit1.jpg Fruit.

© SRTurner

Silene_stellata_fruit2.jpg Immature fruits and seeds, lateral section.

© SRTurner

Silene_stellata_seeds.jpg Fruit transverse section, and maturing seeds (left).

© SRTurner

Flowering - June - September.

Habitat - Forests, savannas, bottomland prairies, streambanks, pond margins, fencerows, railroads, roadsides.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - None when in flower. Whorled stem leaves can also be found in Asclepias quadrifolia and Veronicastrum virginicum

Other info. - This attractive species is found throughout Missouri. Beyond Missouri it occurs across most of the eastern half of the continental U.S., except for the far northern and southern regions. When in flower it is easily recognized by its showy, fringed flowers. The stems with whorled leaves are also distinctive and easily recognized with a little practice. The specific epithet stellata means "star-like," in reference to the appearance of the flowers. In some parts of the country, the plant is colloquially known as "widowsfrill."

Photographs taken at Flemming Park, Jackson County, MO., 5-28-00, and at Busiek State Forest, MO., 6-17-05 (DETenaglia); also at Lake of the Ozarks SP, Camden County, MO, 6-3-2012, Weldon Spring Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 7-3-2013, and Shaw Nature Reserve, Franklin County, MO, 7-10-2021 (SRTurner).