Silene multifida (fringed campion)
Fringed campion is a tall perennial with white, frilled flowers.
About this species
Silene multifida is a tall, elegantly branched perennial. The circle of finely divided, fringe-like petals is characteristic, as is the swollen, pale green calyx.
This species is often listed under S. fimbriata although the currently accepted name is S. multifida following a description by the German botanist Paul Rohrbach in 1869. Another species was described as S. multifida by the Irish botanist Michael Pakenham Edgeworth (1812–1881) (after whom the genus Edgeworthia is named), but this is now considered to be a synonym of a different species. To add to the confusion, the common name, fringed campion, is applied to several other Silene species as well.
Geography & Distribution
Silene multifida is found in southern Russia, Georgia and south-eastern Turkey. It is common in woods in the Caucasus and, more rarely, south into eastern Turkey as far as Lake Van and Hakkari, at elevations of 1600–3000 m.
Other, mainly Caucasian, species such as Pterocarya fraxinifolia (the Caucasian wingnut) grow in the Turkish mountains and as disjuncts (isolated populations) in the drier Zagros mountains of Iran, suggesting that the climate of the Turkey/Iran/Iraq border area was wetter in the past and that the region used to be covered by forest.
From Russia with love
Silene multifida was introduced from the Caucasus as early as 1805 by Messrs. Loddiges, a nursery in Hackney, which brought many new plants and especially orchids into cultivation.
Silene multifida is a perennial with branched stems up to 1.5 m. The leaves are opposite, cordate and pale green. The flowers are around 25 mm in diameter with an inflated calyx 15–20 mm long. The petals are white with a narrow claw and a deeply cut limb held at right angles to the calyx.
Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Hand-coloured engraving of Silene multifida (as S. fimbriata) by Sydenham Edwards (1806), taken from Curtis's Botanical Magazine (Image: RBG Kew)
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.
Now well over two hundred years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.
Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
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Silene multifida is cultivated as an ornamental. Laboratory research in Turkey indicates that extracts of the plant show some antimicrobial activity.
Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage
The Millennium Seed Bank partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in Kew's seed bank vault at Wakehurst.
Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: One.
Silene multifida is an attractive perennial for a cool or partially shaded border. It grows best in moist leafy soil and preferably in partial shade.
This species at Kew
Fringed campion can be seen growing in the Woodland Garden surrounding the Temple of Aeolus.
Pressed and dried specimens of Silene multifida are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details of some of these can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.
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