Agrostemma sylvestris (Schkuhr) G.Don
Lychnis dioica L.
Lychnis rubra Patze, E.Mey. & Elkan
Lychnis sylvestris Schkuhr
Melandrium dioicum (L.) Coss. & Germ.
Melandrium diurnum Fr.
Melandrium intermedium Schur
Melandrium pratense Röhl.
Melandrium purpureum Rupr.
Melandrium rubrum Garcke
Melandrium stenophyllum Schur
Melandrium sylvestre (Schkuhr) Röhl.
Saponaria dioica (L.) Moench
Silene diurna Gren. & Godr.
Silene hornemannii Fenzl
Silene rubra E.H.L.Krause
Common Name: Red Campion
Silene dioica is a biennial to perennial plant with a slender, creeping rootstock producing numerous decumbent, non-flowering shoots up to 20cm tall and erect flowering stems 30 - 90cm tall[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a soap substitute. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental, there are many named varieties[
Although no mention of toxicity has been seen for this species, it does contain saponins.
Although poisonous, saponins also have a range of medicinal applications and many saponin-rich plants are used in herbalism (particularly as emetics, expectorants and febrifuges) or as sources of raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry. Saponins are also found in a number of common foods, such as many beans.
Saponins have a quite bitter flavour and are in general poorly absorbed by the human body, so most pass through without harm. They can be removed by carefully leaching in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of raw foods that contain saponins.
Saponins are much more toxic to many cold-blooded creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish and make them easy to catch[
Europe - Norway to northern Spain, east to European Russia, Ukraine and Bulgaria; N. Africa - Morocco
Woods, especially in clearings; hedgerows; rocky slopes and stabilized screes; on well-drained, at least moderately base-rich soils, preferring substrata rich in nitrates; at elevations up to 1,000 metres[
|Other Uses Rating
Silene dioica is a very cold-hardy plant, able to tolerate temperatures down to at least -20°c when fully dormant[
Prefers a well-drained nitrogen-rich soil in light shade[
]. Succeeds in any position that is not hot and dry[
Hybridizes readily with Silene latifolia[
A dioecious species - both male and female forms must be grown if fruit and seed are required.
The root is used as a soap substitute for washing clothes etc[
]. The soap is obtained by mashing and then simmering the root in hot water.
Seed - sow early spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer.
If you have sufficient seed it can be sown outdoors in situ during the spring.
Division in spring. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.