Caryophyllaceae - pink family
 

WeedsPoisonous PlantsHay Fever
Gerald A. Mulligan (Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, retired)
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Agrostemma githago L., purple cockle, nielle
An annual plant, introduced from Europe and Asia. Flowers purple; calyx prominently ribbed. It is extremely well adapted for growth in cereal crops, and was in the past, a very common plant of cereal fields. However, with the development and use of modern seed cleaning methods, it has now become nearly absent from cereal crops. Presently, purple cockle only occurs sporadically; and even then, mostly along roadsides, and in waste places. When purple cockle was a common plant of cereal crops, the ingestion of the saponins, contained in its seeds, resulted in sickness and deaths of livestock, fowl, and humans.

Cerastium fontanum Baumg. subsp. vulgare (Hartm.) Greuter & Burdet [ =Cerastium vulgatum L.], mouse-eared chickweed, céraiste vulgaire
Perennial, forming patches; stems spreading and often rooting at the nodes; flowers white; lawns, pastures, and cultivated land throughout; introduced from Europe.

Saponaria officinalis L., bouncingbet, saponaire officinale
A perennial herb, with underground rhizomes, that typically forms large patches. Plants are usually glabrous and have opposite leaves on erect or semi-erect stems from 6 to 24 inches (15 to 60 cm.) high. Flowers have 5 showy white to pink flowers that are borne in clusters. Patches occur sporadically along roadsides and in waste places throughout our area. It was originally introduced to this Continent, from Eurasia, as an ornamental plant and for use in the production of soap. Bouncingbet contains saponins that are toxic. Fortunately, livestock normally will not eat this plant unless it is present to them in hay.

Silene noctiflora L., night-flowering catchfly, silène noctiflore
Annual, spreading by seeds; autogamous; erect stems up to 18 inches (45 cm.) high; flowers white; unlike white cockle, both sexes occur in the same flower; when squeezed between the fingers, the flowers of this plant are sticky, whereas those of the very similar white cockle are not sticky; sporadic in disturbed habitats; introduced from Europe.

Silene pratensis (Raf.) Godr. & Gren. [ =Lychnis alba Mill.], white cockle, lychnide blanche
Biennial or short-lived perennial to 3 feet (9 dm.) high; flowers white; allogamous, flowers can be either male or female, the sexes on separate plants; hayfields, grain fields, roadsides, railway tracks, and waste places; found throughout, but less common in the mid-west; introduced from Europe.

Silene vulgaris (Moench) Garcke [ =Silene cucubalus Wibel], bladder campion, silène enflée
Perennial with deep persistent roots; spreading stems up to 18 inches (45 cm.) high; flowers white; hayfields, cultivated fields, waste places, and roadsides; widely distributed; introduced from Europe and Asia.

Spergula arvensis L., corn spurry, spargoute des champs
Annual, semi-prostrate; flowers white; grain fields, cultivated fields, gardens, and roadsides; widespread; introduced from Europe.

Stellaria media (L.) Vill., ,chickweed, stellaire moyenne
Annual or winter annual; autogamous; stems usually prostrate; flowers white; grain fields, cultivated fields, gardens, lawns, and waste places; widespread; introduced from Europe.

Stellaria graminea L., grass-leaved stichwort, stellaire à feuilles de graminée
It is a rhizomatous perennial, propagating by seeds and rhizomes; a square-stemmed, branching, sprawling, and trailing herb with narrow, stalkless, leaves and flowers nearly ½ inch (1.3 cm.) wide. The 5, white, very deeply cleft petals give the appearance of being 10 petals. A native of Eurasia, it is now naturalized as a weed of fields, grassy meadows, lawns, and roadsides throughout our area. It is much less common in the Midwest.

Vaccaria hispanica (Mill.) Rauschert [=Saponaria vaccaria L.], cow cockle, saponaire des vaches
Annual, spreading by seeds; stems 6 inches to 2 feet (1.5 to 6 dm.) high; flowers pale red or rarely white; sporadic in waste places, and along roadsides and railroad beds throughout our area; a troublesome weed in mid-western grainfields with fine-textured soils; introduced from Europe and Asia.. The seeds, containing saponin, when fed as an impurity in grain, has resulted in the poisoning of livestock.

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Weed Name Photo Weed Name Photo
purple cockle, nielle mouse-eared chickweed, céraiste vulgaire
mouse-eared chickweed, céraiste vulgaire
(F&M)
bouncingbet, saponaire officinale
bouncingbet, saponaire officinale bouncingbet, saponaire officinale
night-flowering catchfly, silène noctiflore night-flowering catchfly, silène noctiflore
(seedling, FF)
night-flowering catchfly, silène noctiflore
(NC)
white cockle, lychnide blanche and night-flowering catchfly, silène noctiflore
(F&M)
white cockle, lychnide blanche
(seedling)
white cockle, lychnide blanche white cockle, lychnide blanche
(NC)
bladder campion, silène enflée
(F&M)
bladder campion, silène enflée
bladder campion, silène enflée bladder campion, silène enflée
corn spurry, spargoute des champs corn spurry, spargoute des champs
(F&M)
corn spurry, spargoute des champs
(seedling)
corn spurry, spargoute des champs
(NC)
chickweed, stellaire moyenne chickweed, stellaire moyenne
chickweed, stellaire moyenne and grass-leaved stichwort, stellaire à feuilles de graminée
(F&M)
chickweed, stellaire moyenne
chickweed, stellaire moyenne chickweed, stellaire moyenne (NC)
cow cockle, saponaire des vaches
(F&M)
cow cockle, saponaire des vaches
cow cockle, saponaire des vaches
(in flower, FF)
cow cockle, saponaire des vaches
(seedling, FF)
cow cockle, saponaire des vaches (NC)