Lychnis × loveae B. Boivin
Lychnis alba Mill.
Lychnis divaricata Rchb.
Lychnis macrocarpa Boiss. & Reut.
Lychnis pratensis Raf.
Lychnis vespertina Sibth.
Melandrium album (Mill.) Garcke
Melandrium boissieri Schischk.
Melandrium dioicum album (Mill.) D. Löve
Melandrium eriocalycinum Boiss.
Melandrium latifolium (Poir.) Maire
Melandrium macrocarpum Willk.
Melandrium marizianum Gand.
Melandrium vespertinum Fr.
Silene alba (Mill.) E.H.L.Krause
Silene macrocarpa (Boiss. & Reut.) E.H.L.Krause
Silene pratensis Godr.
Silene pratensis divaricate (Rchb.) McNeill & C. Prantice
Common Name: White Campion
Silene latifolia is a short-lived perennial plant that sometimes is only annual or biennial. Growing from a thick, almost woody rootstock, the plant produces a few short non-flowering shoots and erect flowering shoots 30 - 100cm tall[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a soap. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental, but is more likely to be present in a garden as a weed[
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[
N. Africa - Morocco to Tunisia; Eurasia - Norway to Portugal, through Russia to Russian Far East, through Turkey , Syria and Caucasia to Iran
Hedges, waste places and a weed of cultivated land; at elevations up to 400 metres[
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Silene latifolia is a moderately cold-hardy plant, able to tolerate temperatures down to around -20°c when fully dormant[
Species in this genus generally grow well in a sunny position in a well-drained but moisture-retentive fertile soil[
Plants tend to be short-lived and are sometimes only annual[
Hybridizes readily with Silene dioica[
The flowers produce a mild aroma in the evening, attracting moths for pollination[
The smut, Ustilago violacea, causes the production of stamens in female flowers, but violet spores of the fungus replace the pollen grains[
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 the root and then simmering it 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.
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.