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Fire Pink, Scarlet Catchfly - Silene virginica


Family: Caryophyllaceae – Pink family Genus Common Name: Catchfly Native Status: Native
Silene virginica - Fire Pink, Scarlet Catchfly.

Fire Pink has a strikingly beautiful scarlet red springtime blossom.

Silene virginica is listed as Endangered or Threatened in Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

There are two other Silene species with scarlet flowers and similar ranges - Silene rotundifolia (Roundleaf Catchfly) and Silene regia (Royal Catchfly.) S. rotundifolia has the smallest distribution - AL, GA, KY, OH, TN, WV, with S. regia being found in most those states plus AR, IL, IN, KS, MO (not in WV.) S. virginica has the widest distribution, being found in most of the eastern United States. Royal Catchfly does not have the deeply notched petals of the other two species, and is a taller plant. For the other two species, the stamens and styles are also more exserted in S. virginica than in S. rotundifolia. The veining in the calyx of S. virginica is more distinct. The shape of the flower petals are somewhat different as well, but the leaf shape may be the most obvious difference between the species. S. rotundifolia, as indicated by the species epithet, has much more rounded leaves than S. virginica.

Two more scarlet Silene species occur west and south of the eastern scarlet species:
  • Silene plankii - endemic to central New Mexico, a small area of a single county in the tip of western Texas, and into the Sierra del Carmen in Coahuila, Mexico.
  • Silene laciniata (Cardinal Catchfly, Mexican Pink), which is large-flowered with deeply lobed petals. Various subspecies occur from western Texas through New Mexico and Arizona on to the cliffs of Santa Cruz Island of California, as well as in Mexico.


Found in:
AL, AR, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, VA, WI, WV

Journal Articles Referencing Catchfly

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Distribution of Silene virginica in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 20 Jan 2017). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

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Site: Lake Nottely Date: 2009-May-29Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D60
1/30 f/16 ISO200
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
90mm (135 equiv)
Fire Pink blossom at Lake Nottely in Northeast Georgia.
Silene virginica

Site: Cedar Glade, Pigeon Mountain East, Walker County, GA Date: 2013-May-11Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The styles and stamens of Silene virginica are exserted well outside the corolla tube.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Silene virginica

Site: Cedar Glade, Pigeon Mountain East, Walker County, GA Date: 2013-May-11Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The hairy, sticky calyx found on many Silene species gives it the common name “Catchfly.” Small flies or gnats may get caught in the hairs and secretion.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Silene virginica

Site: Cedar Glade, Pigeon Mountain East, Walker County, GA Date: 2013-May-11Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The calyx tube is may be purple or green, and is distinctly 10-veined. It swells a bit after blooming as the plant moves into the fruiting stage.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Silene virginica

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyrighted by the named photographer