Lychnis (Gr. a light or lamp), a genus of old-world plants belonging to the pink family (caryophyllacece), and so called either on account of the flame color of some species, or because the cottony leaves anciently answered as wicks for lamps; the botanical name is in common use for the garden species. The scarlet lychnis" (L. Chalcedonica), from Siberia, sometimes called Maltese cross, is an old garden plant, its single and double forms being from a fine rich scarlet to rose color and even white. Jupiter's lychnis and rose-of-heaven are names for L. flos-Jovis and L. coeli-rosa, species sometimes cultivated. The ragged robin or cuckoo lychnis (L. flos-cuculi) is a well known early summer plant, usually with double pink-red flowers. Another common plant in old gardens is the mullein pink or rose campion (L. coronaria), which has its stem and leaves covered with a white cottony down, and flowers varying from deep crimson to white. L. Sieloldii, from Japan, and L. Haageana, probably a hybrid, are comparatively recent introductions.
The garden species are readily raised from seeds, and most of them are self-sowing; some are not perfect perennials, and need to be multiplied by division if it is desired to have them continue from year to year. Some of the species are weeds in Europe, and two have become naturalized in this country. The evening-blooming lychnis (L. respertina), of which a double form is sometimes cultivated, has white or pinkish flowers, which open in the evening; it is as yet only sparingly established in the older states. The corn cockle, quite too common in our grain fields as well as those of Europe, is an annual, softly-hairy plant, with showy purplish-red flowers; this was formerly called agrostemma githago, but is now placed in this genus, and is lychnis gi-thago, the specific name being derived from gith or Guinea pepper. It is one of the most troublesome weeds of the older wheat districts, as its black seeds are so nearly the size of the wheat grains as to make their separation difficult, and their presence greatly deteriorates the quality of the flour.
Scarlet Lychnis (L. Chalcedonica).