This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
A large genus of annual and perennial herbs of variable habit. Flowers terminal, solitary, cymose, paniculate, or in one-sided spikes. Calyx more or less inflated, 5-toothed, 10-nerved. Petals 5; claws narrow; blade entire or divided, often with two scales at its base. Stamens 10. Styles 3.
Capsule 6-valved at the top. Seeds numerous, rough on the surface; embryo curved. Nearly all the species are from the northern hemisphere, and especially abundant in the Mediterranean region. So named from the Greek saliva, many species being covered with a viscid excretion, which is sufficiently adhesive in some to hold small insects; hence the English name Catchfly.
1. S. Armeria. - An erect annual with unbranched viscid stems about 18 inches high, and glaucous smooth leaves. Flowers small, in dense terminal cymes, bright rosy carmine. A very pretty plant when grown in tufts. There are dull-coloured varieties and one quite white. This is occasionally met with in this country on old walls, etc.
2. S. compdcta (fig. 47). - A similar but much prettier species from Southern Russia and the Caucasus. The flowers are of the same colour as in the preceding, but larger. It is, however, a tender and delicate plant requiring a dry sheltered position.
Fig. 47. Silene compacta. (1/3 nat. size.)
Fig. 48. Silene pendula. (1/3 nat. size.)
3. S. ornata. - A strong-growing annual species about 2 feet high, with large purple flowers. A native of the South of Africa.
4. S. pendula (fig. 48). - This is one of the commonest and prettiest of the tribe, either for edging or growing in masses. It is about a foot high, with rosy purple or white flowers, appearing in May and June. A native of Sicily.
5. S. maritima. - A perennial native species with large white flowers, about 8 lines in diameter. Stems spreading. This is very near the common S. inflata, but differs in its diffuse habit, fewer flowers, and shortly cleft petals with broad lobes having two scales at the base.
6. S. Schafta. - This is one of the best of the perennial species, distinguished by its dwarf habit, about 6 inches high, lanceolate acute leaves, and large purple flowers, solitary or two together. The calyx is very slightly inflated. It continues in bloom all the Summer. Siberia.
7. S. acaulis. - A very dwarf plant growing in dense tufts, with small linear crowded leaves, and solitary pink or white flowers on short peduncles. Petals shortly cleft, with a notched scale at the base of the blade. This is found on the summits of the higher mountains of Britain, and has a very wide distribution in the temperate and Arctic regions of the northern hemisphere.
8. S. fimbriata. - This grows about 2 feet high, with ovate-lanceolate leaves and large panicles of white flowers, remark-able for their fringed petals and widely-inflated calyx, A native of the Caucasus.