This is probably the most hardy and the most widely distributed of our adventive members of the Pink Family. It increases very rapidly by means of underground runners as well as by seed. It is very commonly known as "Soapwort," because of the fact that the mucilaginous juice from the crushed leaves will form a lather if they are shaken in water; it is said that it was, in olden days, used for washing purposes.
The plant stem is quite stout, smooth, erect and sparingly, or not at all branched. At the top is a corymbed, or flat-topped, cluster containing many flowers; petals, notched or sometimes quite deeply cleft, and with an appendage at the top of the long claws that, bent at right angles, enter the long, tubular, veined, greenish, 5-notched calyx. The ten stamens are divided into two sets of five, one longer than the other and maturing first. The flowers vary in color from a delicate, beautiful shade of pink to white, depending upon the amount of shade and the dryness of the soil in which they grow. The leaves are ovate-lanceolate, united opositely on the stem by short clasping petioles.
From July until September, Soapwort blooms profusely in waste places along railroad beds and beside dusty roads where few other flowers are able to flourish. It was one of the first of foreign flowers to be introduced into this country and has been established as a wild flower for several centuries.
Cow-Herb (S. Vaccaria) has a more slender and branching stem and pale red flowers in a loose corymb, the central flowers of which bloom before the outer ones; the petals are not crowned. It is adventive from Europe and may occur anywhere.
A. Maiden Pink.
B. Fire Pink; Catchfly.
A handsome rose-colored Pink that has become naturalized along the Atlantic coast and is quite abundant in some localities, in fields and waste places. The flowers grow singly, or in pairs, at the ends of the branching stem; the petals are broad, wedge-shaped and finely-toothed; the calyx is tubular, five-toothed, veined and subtended at the base by two ovate bracts that are about half its length. The leaves are numerous, small, short and narrowly lanceolate.
The Maiden Pink is one of the most graceful in form of the family, hardy and a favorite under cultivation.
Depford Pink (D. Armeria) (European) has narrower petals with longer claws; the five-toothed calyx is very long, equal to the flower tube, and downy; its two bracts are also long and linear. The pink flowers grow in small clusters at the ends of branching, downy, erect stems from 6 to 18 in. high. It is now distributed from Me. to Mich, and south to Va., being most abundant near the coast.
Fire Pink; Catchfly (Silene Virginica) is one of our most brilliantly colored wild flowers, the petals being either deep crimson or scarlet; the five petals are oblong, 2-cleft, long-limbed and five in number. The lower leaves are thin and spatulate, the upper ones oblong-lanceolate. Both stem, leaves and calyx are rather hairy. This species is found in open woods from southern N. J., western N. Y. and Mich, southwards.
Wild Pink (Silene Pennsylvanica) is another beautiful native species, with bright pink flowers and a low, sticky stem, the upper leaves are small, and . the numerous basal ones, lance-shaped. It is rather common from Me. to N. Y. and southwards.