Red Campion (silene dioica)

Red Campion wildflower

Red Campion is a wildflower member of the Pink family. It is also known as Adders’ Flower, Jack-by-the-Hedge, Red Mintchop, Soldiers’ Buttons and Scalded Apples.   It is a hardy perennial, growing 1 – 3 ft (30 – 92 cm) high.  Red Campion produces loads of pretty, bright-red flowers with divided petals, which close at night, and sticky leaves.  It flowers from May to as late as September. In the wild Red Campion is found in damp woodlands and hedgerows. It is a good indicator of ancient woodlands, so may give a clue to how old the wood is. Red Campion is also a vigorous self-seeder so you may feel inclined to cut the flowerheads off after flowering to prevent them popping up everywhere!

Red Campion Folklore

Red Campion has many links to mythology, being associated with snakes, devils, goblins and fairies. Red campion’s genus name, Silene, probably derives from the Greek word ‘sialon’, which means saliva, in reference to the sticky substance the plant secretes. According to folklore, Red campion flowers guard bees’ honey stores, as well as protecting fairies from being discovered. Red Campion seeds have also been used to treat snakebites.

In the Anglican church Red Campion is associated with St james, as it flowers around his feast day.

Wildlife Value of Red Campion

Red Campion is a great favourite of the long-tongued bumble-bee and a good nectar plant for butterflies. It is pollinated by long-tongued bumblebees and hoverflies.  It is also the food plant of the Rivulet, Campion, Lychnis, Twin Spot Carpet, Marbled Clover and Sandy Carpet moths.

RHS Plants for Pollinators

How to Grow Red Campion

Red Campion can be saown in spring or autumn. Sprinkle the seeds onto trays of compost and press gently into the soil. No need to cover with more soil. Water as required. Once the seeds have germinated into small plants, carefully remove them from the tray and plant individually into pots and grow on before planting out when ready.

Alternatively, sprinkle the seeds directly where you want them to grow and press them into the soil.

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