bladder campion (Silene vulgaris)
Oberna commutata (Guss.) S. Ikonnikov
Silene cucubalus Wibel
Silene inflata Sm.
Silene latifolia (P. Mill.) Britten & Rendle, non Poir.
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of bladder
campion is Silene vulgaris (Moench) Garcke. Silene vulgaris is less
variable in North America than in its native Europe, where five sub-
species are recognized on the basis of capsule size, petal color, leaf
shape, and habit. All North American material appears to belong to
subsp. vulgaris, although a few collections from sandy habitats tend
to have unusually narrow leaves. Similar plants from Europe have
been named var. litoralis (Ruprecht) Jalas and subsp. angustifolia
It can be distinguished from other Silene spp. primarily by the attractive
pink calyx, with its swollen appearance and complicated network of veins.
For other Silene spp., the calyx is usually more green, slender, with fewer
conspicuous veins along its length. Another characteristic to consider is the
overall hairiness of the plant. For example, Silene pratense (evening
campion) is often a very hairy plant, while bladder campion is usually hair-
less. Also, some Silene spp., such as Silene noctiflora (night-flowering
campion), bloom at night, while bladder campion blooms during the day.
NATIVE STATUS: Introduced, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This introduced perennial plant is about 2' tall, often branching
near the base. The stems are round and usually hairless.
Leaves: The opposite leaves are up to 2½" long and ¾" across, sessile
against the stems, and dull green. They are usually oblanceolate, but some-
times lanceolate or narrowly ovate. Their margins are smooth and slightly
ciliate, otherwise the leaves are hairless (on rare occasions, they may be
Flowers: Some of the upper stems terminate in large panicles of numer-
ous flowers. Each flower is up to ¾" across, with 5 white petals that are
deeply cleft (almost looking like 10 petals), and 10 stamens protruding
from its center. The swollen calyx is ovoid, bladder-like, and about ¾" in
length. It has 20 longitudinal veins across its surface, which are connected
by a reticulated network of smaller veins. This calyx is dull pink or green-
ish-pink overall, while the veins are a brighter shade of white or pink. The
upper rim of this calyx has 5 tri- angular teeth. While in full bloom, the
entire plant has a tendency to lean over to one side because of the weight
of the flowers.
Fruit/Seeds: Each flower is replaced by a cylindrical capsule that contains brown seeds.
Roots: The root system consists of a taproot with short rhizomes. This
plant can spread vegetatively.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Bladder campion propogates itself by
reseeding and through vegetative rhizome spread.
HABITAT TYPES: Bladder campion is native to Europe and Asia, and
was probably introduced into the United States as a horticultural plant
because of the attractive flowers. Habitats include disturbed grassy areas
in various waste areas, including vacant lots, abandoned fields, and areas
along railroads, roadsieds, gravel pits and shores. This plant does not
appear to flourish in high quality natural habitats, and so its capacity to
invade such natural areas is rather low.
SITE CHARACTERITICS: Bladder campion prefers full or partial sun,
and mesic conditions. This plant appears to flourish in a clay-loam soil.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period is usually early
to mid-summer, and lasts about 1-2 months.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Bladder campion is a species found
throughout most of the United States and Canada, with the exception of
Florida and the Gulf states, and portions of the southwest. It is found in
all Canadian provinces except the far northern territories.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Long-tongued bees pollinate the flowers;
the flowers may attract moths as well. Because the foliage is high in
saponins, mammalian herbivores usually don't consume this plant. In
overgrazed pastures, livestock may eat this plant when little else is
available. At least in the eastern and midwestern states, the seeds are
not an important source of food to birds. The ecological value of this
plant to wildlife appears to be low.
Bladder campion is an attractive plant while in bloom has been used as
Crooked Run Valley