deptford pink (Dianthus armeria)
Dianthus armeria L. ssp. armeria
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of deptford pink
is Dianthus armeria L. The Deptford pink has attractive flowers, but they
are quite small. This plant is easy to overlook until it begins blooming.
The Deptford pink is fairly easy to identify in the field because of the ap-
pearance of the flower petals: they are usually more narrow than the petals
of other Dianthus spp., their outer edges are toothed, and they have small
white dots across the surface. The flowers of this species are smaller in
size and less showy than the flowers of Dianthus spp. (Pinks) that are
commonly cultivated in flower gardens. The leaf rosette at the base of the
plant is green, a feature that distinguishes it from some other members of
the pink family, which have grey-green leaves.
Dianthus armeria was given its English name Deptford pink by the 17th
century herbalist Thomas Johnson in a celebrated case of mistaken
identity. Deptford, now located in southeast section of the city of London,
is 'famous' for a species that has not grown there in historical times, and
possibly not at all. In fact, what Johnson found and described in 1633 was
probably maiden pink Dianthus deltoides.
NATIVE STATUS: Introduced, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This adventive annual or biennial plant is about 1-2½' tall and very slender in appearance. It branches sparingly above the widely spaced pairs
of leaves. The stems are slender, round, and stiff. They have patches of
fine white hairs beneath each opposite pair of leaves, otherwise they are
Leaves: The opposite leaves are up to 3" long and 1/8" across. They are
linear (although wider at the base), sessile, and usually slightly pubescent.
The base of each pair of leaves wraps around the stem in a sheath, where
the stem is somewhat broader and knobby.
Flowers: The upper stems terminate in small clusters of pink flowers. The flowering stalks (peduncles) are more hairy than the stems, otherwise they
are similar in appearance. Each flower is about 1/3" across, consisting of 5 spreading petals, a tubular green calyx with 5 teeth, 10 stamens with pink
anthers, and 2 styles. The petals are pink with small white dots. Each petal
is wedge-shaped at its base, and crenate or dentate toward its outer edge.
The pubescent calyx is about ¾" long. It has about 10-22 fine nerves run-
ning along its length. There are usually 3 narrow leaf-like bracts that are
about as long as the calyx at the base of the flower. Each cluster of flowers
and bracts often have V-shape.
Fruit/Seeds: Each flower is replaced by an elongated seed capsule con-
taining numerous seeds. Each seed is orbicular or reniform and flattened
with small bumps across its surface.
Roots: The root system consists of a slender taproot. This plant spreads
by reseeding itself.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Deptford pink propogates itself by re-
HABITAT TYPES: This species is adventive from Europe and is becom-
ing more common in disturbed areas. Habitats include pastures, abandoned
fields, areas along roadsides and railroads, paths along the edge of wood-
lands that are irregularly mowed, grassy meadows with a history of distur-
bance, and miscellaneous waste areas. This species declines in high quality
habitats because it isn't competitive with many broad-leaved perennial
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Deptford pink usually grows in full sun-
light in mesic to dry conditions. It appears to flourish in a clay-loam or
gravelly soil that is somewhat compacted and heavy.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Blooming time is from late spring to
late summer (May through September).
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Deptford pink is a species found
throughout most of the United States and Canada with the exception of
Arizona in the southwest, the far northern Great Plains states (North
Dakota) and Canadian provinces, and the northern Canadian provinces
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The nectar of the flowers likely attracts
small butterflies, skippers, long-tongued bees, and bee flies. This is im-
plied by the long tubular calyx and the restricted opening at the throat of
the flower, although I have not seen very many insects visiting the flowers.
Short-tongued bees may collect the pollen, while flower flies undoubtedly
feed on the pollen the latter group of insects is unlikely to be effective at
pollination. The foliage of members of the Pink Family tends to be high in
saponins and unattractive to mammalian herbivores. In pastures, livestock
probably eat this insubstantial species along with the surrounding grass.
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