This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
This plant has been found in Interglacial, late Glacial, Neolithic, and lacustrine deposits. To-day it is found in the Temperate and Arctic Zones in Arctic Europe to the Caucasus, Siberia up to Lake Baikal, and Greenland. It is found in every part of Great Britain, except Hunts, Stirling, Main Argyll, and Caithness.
In most of our English counties we look for the Red Campion in early spring, with its pink blooms, springing up from the moist soil of ditch or hedge bank. But there are in some districts wide areas where it is entirely absent, and these same districts also lack its usual associates elsewhere - Dog's Mercury, and Lords-and- Ladies or Cuckoo Pint. Woodlands of this common but beautiful English wild flower, which helps with Hedge Garlic and Greater Stitchwort to beautify also the country lanes, are a lovely sight in spring.
The Red Campion is a tall, erect plant, with several stems with thickened joints, often bent, round, branched, the upper ones dividing. The radical leaves are blunt above, stalked, the stem-leaves linear lance-shaped, tapering. The whole plant is clothed with hairs. The stems often have a purple tinge. Numbers of plants grow together, and a bed of Red Campion in bloom is a thing to be remem-bered. The plant grows in tufts with many leafy shoots.
The flowers grow on dichotomous panicles, regularly dividing into two, and the plants are dioecious. The petals are divided into two nearly to the base, with narrow, spreading lobes. The calyx-teeth are triangular. The capsule is nearly rounded, with ten teeth, the latter bent back. The seeds are black, and have rows of points arranged lengthwise. Red Campion is often 3 ft. high. The flowers are in bloom in June and July. The plant is perennial, and may be propagated by division.
The flowers are female or pistillate, and male or staminate, and though flowering by clay (diurnal) they have much the same character as Lychnis alba, but are conspicuous and large, and adapted to visits by insects with a fairly long proboscis. Red Campion is dioecious, and the pistillate plant is more robust. A black or brown powder is produced by a fungus, Ustilago antherorum, which attacks the stamens in this and L. alba, and the spores are dispersed like pollen by insects. The seeds are adapted to wind dispersal. The capsule has a wide mouth, and the seeds are scattered far and wide by the wind or by passers-by.
Photo. G. B. Dixon - Red Campion (lychnis Dioica, L.)
The soil required is a humus soil, and it is therefore a humus-loving plant, ranging over many different formations.
This plant is attacked by the fungus Ustilago violacea.
A beetle, Phytonomus plantaginis, Lepidoptera, such as Tawny Sheers (Dianthoecia carpophaga), The Lychnis D. capsincola, Nemeo-phila plantaginis, Yellow Shell (Camptogramma bilineata), Rivulet (Emmelesia affinitata), Sandy Carpet (E. decolorata), Gelechia vis-cariella, Lygris flavofasciata, Netted Pug (Eupithecia venosata), feed on it.
The second name, dioica, refers to the dioecious habit.
Red Campion is called Adder's-flower, Bachelor's Buttons, Billy Buttons, Bird's-eye, Brassety Buttons, Brid-een, Bull's Eye, Cock-robin, Crows-ope, Devil's Flower, Flea-bites, Geuky Flower, Gramfer-Greygles, Hare's Eye, Lousy Beds, Mother-Dee, Plum-puddings, Ragged Robin, Red Butcher, Red Lack, Red Robin, Robin-in-the-hose, Robin-i'-the-hedge, Round Robin, Scalded Apple.
As to the name Bachelor's Buttons, Johnson says: "The similitude that these flowers have to the jagged cloath buttons anciently worne in this kingdome gave occasion to our Gentlewomen and other lovers of flowers in those times to call them Batchelor's Buttons". Another name Lousy Soldier's Buttons refers to the dislike to gather them when covered with small insects (Aphidae). The plant is called Dee (or Die), and a superstition exists amongst Cumberland children to the effect that if they pluck the flower, some misfortune will happen to their parents. It was supposed to exert a charm over the fortunes of lovers. It was called "Great Candlestick" because that was lighted up on St. John the Baptist's Day.
When it is cultivated it sometimes becomes double. A white-flowered form exists in a wild state.
The flower is visited by the small Elephant Hawk Moth in the evening, being partly crepuscular.
Essential Specific Characters: 49. Lychnis dioica, L. - Dioecious, stem tall, erect, leaves lanceolate, flowers pink, calyx teeth triangular, peduncle downy, capsule globular, with 10 recurved teeth.