PINK FAMILY - Caryophyllaceae: Starry Campion

Silene stellata

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!