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 is found in Interglacial beds in Sussex. At the present day it ranges from the shores of Arctic Europe, from Italy westward to the Canaries, and northward to Norway and Finland. It may be found around the entire coast of Great Britain, except in Merioneth, South Lancashire, and West Ross. It ascends to 3000 ft. in the Highlands.
Photo. J. H. Crabtree - Sea Campion (Silene maritima, With.)
The Sea Campion, or Seaside Catch fly if we may coin the name, is a familiar sight on all our seashores in the summer months, loving best the sandy tracts. It is thus a strand plant, a sand-lover, and a salt-lover, though occasionally it is found in Alpine tracts by streams, but this is the exception. It is practically thus a xerophyte or dry-soil type. It is associated with the Yellow Horned Poppy, Tamarisk, Sea Buckthorn, Thrift, and Centaury amongst other maritime wild flowers.
It is much less compact than Cheddar Pink, having numerous branched stems (being caulescent or forming aerial stems), the barren stems spreading, and suberect or prostrate, while a rosette of barren shoots is formed. The stems are not dwarfed as in Moss Campion. The leaves are oblong, tapering.
The flowering stems are panicled or solitary, and erect, the calyx bladder-like, swollen, netted, the flowers panicled, the petals white, cleft, and crowned. The nerves of the calyx are netted, and the capsule is not completely divided by septa. The flowers are larger than in the Bladder Campion. The bracts are herbaceous, and the styles are divided into two nearly to the base.
The plant is usually 9 in. high. The flowers are in bloom from August to September. It is perennial and propagated by division.
The tube is long and narrow, and the flowers are adapted to pollination by long-tongued Lepidoptera; the flowers are drooping in habit, with an inflated calyx, and the anthers are projected after they mature, and the flowers are proterandrous, i.e. the anthers ripen first. In S. Cucubalus the flowers are trimorphic.
The seeds of Sea Campion are dispersed by the agency of the wind. The capsule opens above, and the many small seeds, partly winged, are upset by gusts of wind and blown to a distance.
The plant is a halophyte or salt-lover, requiring a saline soil, and is a sand plant, addicted to sandy seashores.
Uromyces behenis and Ustilago violacea are parasitic fungi which live on it. The Netted Pug Moth (Eupithoecia venosata), Bordered Gothic (Neuria Saponariae), Gelechia leucomanella, Barrett's Marbled Coronet (Dianthoecia barrettii), the Gray (D. caesia), and the Pod-lover (D. capsophila) feed on it.
Silene, of Theophrastus, is from the satyr Silenus of ancient Greek mythology, and maritima refers to the habitat of the plant.
Sea Campion is called Thimble and the Witches' Thimble.
Essential Specific Characters: 47. Silene maritima, With. - Stems numerous, spreading, leaves glaucous, entire, oblong, flowers white, solitary, erect, calyx inflated, petals notched, crowned.