Silene latifolia is a biennial to short perennial herb, 40-120 cm tall, hairy; initially forming a basal rosette which overwinters, several stems from a nearly woody crown stock to 3 cm diameter, stems leafy.
Leaves opposite, lower leaves stalked, becoming stalkless and reduced above (sessile), base of stalk or blade joined across stem, blade lance-shaped to broadly elliptic, 3-10 cm long, 1-4 cm wide, dull green, hairy, rosette leaves dying as inflorescence develops (Uva et al 1997), leaves of inflorescence reduced to small pairs of bracts.
Flowers white, dioecious, 3 cm wide, fragrant, petals 5, deeply notched, calyx tubular, conspicuously veined, green to purplish, glandular-hairy, becoming inflated as fruit develops in female flower, open in evening, female flowers with 5 stigmas, moth pollinated, male inflorescence large, branched; blooming May-Sept.
Fruit dry capsule, to 1.5 cm, broadly egg-shaped, initially covered by old, hairy calyx which splits open eventually disintegrating, capsule itself is smooth dark green, becoming tan at maturity, splitting open by 10 teeth at tip to release gray seeds, 0.15 cm. Seeds viable in soil seed bank at least 3.5 years (Peroni and Armstrong. 2001). May flower and fruit in the first season following germination, or overwinters as a rosette.
Wetland status: UPL.
Frequency in NYC: occasional. Origin: Europe.
Habitat: Open areas, dry fill, disturbed meadows.
Notes: Attacked by the fungus Ustilago violacea (Anther-smut disease) that replaces anthers with fungal spore producing body (Antonovics et al. 1996). Extracts of White campion were toxic to mosquito larvae (McNeill 1977).