Silene gallica (common catchfly)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Detection and Inspection
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Silene gallica
Preferred Common Name
- common catchfly
Other Scientific Names
- Silene anglica L.
- Silene gallica var. gallica L.
- Silene gallica var. quinquevulnera (L.) Kock
- Silene quinquevulnera L.
International Common Names
- English: French catchfly
- Spanish: calabacillo; pensamiento
Local Common Names
- English: English catchfly; five-wound catchfly; French silene; gunpowder weed; Mediterranean catchfly; mother marm; small catchfly; small-flower catchfly; small-flowered catchfly; spotted catchfly; windmill catchfly; windmill pink
- French: silene de France
- Austria: Franz?sisches Leimkraut
- Brazil: alfine te frances; alfinetes-da-terra
- Denmark: Fransk limurt
- Germany: Franz?sisches Leimkraut
- Lithuania: Gallijas plaukskene
- New Zealand: small-flowered silene
- Norway: Fransk smelle
- Poland: Lepnica francuska
- Sweden: franskglim
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
S. gallica is a small and relatively innocuous winter annual herb native to western Asia, North Africa and much of Europe. It usually grows in fairly dry, open habitats, often along roadsides and waste land, but is also a weed in arable land and dry pasture. It has been introduced to other parts of Europe, India, East Asia, the Arabian peninsula, sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas and parts of Europe, and is reported to be invasive in Australia, and New Zealand and many Pacific islands. S. gallica has little impact on crops. It has been suspected of poisoning livestock on a few occasions in Australia and East Africa, but there is very little information on such claims.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Caryophyllales
- Family: Caryophyllaceae
- Genus: Silene
- Species: Silene gallica
DescriptionTop of page
Taken from eFloras (2013a,b):
Plants annual; taproot slender. Stems erect, branched, rarely simple, upt to 60 cm tall though usually 15-45 cm, with long, often crinkled hairs mixed with short pubescence, viscid-glandular distally. Leaves 2 per node, blade with coarse, ascending, scabrous pubescence on both surfaces; basal few, withering, blade oblanceolate to spatulate-petiolate, 0.5-5 cm × 3-15 mm; cauline blades oblanceolate to lanceolate, 1-7 cm × 1-15 mm, apex obtuse or shortly acuminate to acute. Inflorescences open, with racemose branches, internodes and bracts usually ca. equaling fruiting calyx, 1-5 mm, longer proximally. Flowers 5-8 mm diameter; calyx prominently 10-veined, narrowly tubular-ovoid in flower, ovoid in fruit, constricted at mouth, 7-10 × 3-5 mm, membranous between veins, margins dentate, hispid, hairs ca. 2 mm, veins parallel, lobes lanceolate, 2-2.5 mm, apex greenish purple, acute; petals white or pink, often with dark spot or dark pink throughout, clawed, claw equaling calyx, limb elliptic to obovate, lobed or unlobed, to 6 mm, appendages 2, oblong to narrowly lanceolate, 1-1.5 mm; stamens equaling or shorter than calyx; stigmas 3, included in calyx. Capsules equaling calyx, opening with 6 recurved, narrowly triangular teeth; carpophore shorter than 1 mm, pubescent. Seeds dark reddish brown, reniform, angular with concave, radially ridged faces, broad outer edge transversely ridged and verrucose, about 0.5 mm broad.
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
S. gallica is native to western Asia, North Africa and much of Europe. It has been introduced to other parts of Europe, India, East Asia, the Arabian peninsula, sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, Australia and New Zealand.
S. gallica has declined markedly in inland sites throughout the UK (part of its native range) and many of the remaining sites are coastal (National Museum of Wales, 2013). The authors attribute this decline to intensification of agricultural production (more herbicides and fertilizer, lost field margins, earlier harvesting, use of more competitive crops) and, at coastal sites, tourism development. These authors also say that S. gallica has reportedly become extinct in northern Europe but is still widespread in central and southern Europe (Museum of Wales, 2013). Seedlings are killed by winter temperatures of -10oC, and that this probably explains the restriction of the species to southern England (Salisbury, 1964).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 21 Jul 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Federal Republic of Yugoslavia||Present||Native|
|-Prince Edward Island||Present||Introduced|
|-Lord Howe Island||Present||Introduced||Invasive|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced||Invasive|
|-Western Australia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Environmental weed in southern and western parts|
|French Polynesia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Rapa Island|
|New Caledonia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Ile Grand Terre|
|Chile||Present||Introduced||Invasive on the Juan Fernández Islands|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
S. gallica has few medicinal or herbal uses (although the variety quinquevulnera has been grown in gardens for its decorative flowers), so its introduction to America, Australasia and other places was most probably by the inadvertent transport of its small seeds in or on agricultural machinery, agricultural produce, packing materials and soil. Once established in new countries it spread quickly, through its seed and possibly by fragments of viscid stem (and seed capsules) becoming attached to wool or hair.
S. gallica appeared in both Australia and New Zealand in the mid-1800s, when immigration from Europe was encouraged by both countries. Writing in 1953, Guthrie-Smith described its spread over hundreds of acres on his large sheep station in North Island, New Zealand: ‘The extraordinary spread of small-flowered silene (Silene gallica) … was due to two especial factors – one the viscidity of the plant’s stalks and stems, the other the nature of the sheep then on Tutira; they were merino, not a bare-legged breed, but sheep, on the contrary, wooled to their toes. Fragments of silene adhering to their shanks were thus carried wherever sheep trod’ (Guthrie-Smith, 1953).
It is uncertain whether S. gallica was also introduced to North America in the 1800s or by earlier Spanish immigration.
Until relatively recently (e.g., Stace, 1997), S. gallica was considered native in Britain and 'probably introduced' in Ireland (Scannell and Synnott, 1987). However, it is now recognised as an ancient introduction by man to the UK (pre-1,500 AD) (Northern Ireland Priority Species, 2013).
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Australia||1838||Yes||Australia’s Virtual Herbarium (2013); Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney (2004); Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney (2013)||Tasmania|
|New Zealand||1855||Yes||THOMSON (1922)|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
Its seed has been reported as an impurity in clover seed (Salisbury, 1964). It is grown in China as a garden plant and it could well escape from gardens and become established as a weed (eFloras, 2013a). It was reported as recently naturalised in Taiwan (Liang and Wang, 2012), and it is likely to naturalise elsewhere.
HabitatTop of page
S. gallica is a weed of cultivated or disturbed ground. It usually grows in fairly dry, open habitats, often along roadsides and railways and in waste land, but is also a weed in arable land and dry pasture (PIER, 2013; eFloras, 2013a). Its taproot probably helps it survive in very dry environments (eFloras, 2013b). It can sometimes be found in coastal areas or along rivers, streams or temporary water (Northern Ireland Priority Species, 2013). Although S. gallica is moderately competitive, it tends to avoid other plants, frequenting open, somewhat disturbed, sandy or gravelly soils areas in wayside areas (Northern Ireland Priority Species, 2013).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details|
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The flowers are hermaphrodite and pollinated by Lepidoptera and bees (PFAF, 2013).
Once mature the fruit capsules split at the apex into six teeth. Each fruit contains an average of 48 seeds, each with an average weight of 0.0004 g (Salisbury, 1964). Seeds are generally dispersed near the parent plant, but grazing and other forms of disturbance by man can help transport it further afield (Northern Ireland Priority Species, 2013).
Physiology and phenology
In the UK, S. gallica typically germinates in autumn but occasionally in spring and flowers the following July to October (National Museum of Wales, 2013). In Australia, plants flower between late winter and early summer and fruit between September (spring) and December (winter).
When buried in the soil S. gallica seed is transient (lasting less than one year), or short-term persistent (surviving 1 to 5 years) (Thompson et al. 1997, cited in Northern Ireland Priority Species, 2013).
Population size and structure
S. gallica populations can become locally abundant if there is little competition (Northern Ireland Priority Species, 2013).
S. gallica tends to be found in the company of other annual weeds of cultivated land and dry waste places.
Seedlings are killed by winter temperatures of -10oC (Salisbury, 1964). PFAF (2013) suggested that S. gallica can grow in dry areas with nutritionally poor soil (Webb et al., 1988; Wagner et al., 1999; eFloras, 2013a).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Pathway CausesTop of page
|Animal production||Carried on the feet of livestock||Yes|
|Crop production||Agricultural machinery||Yes|
|Escape from confinement or garden escape||Has escaped from gardens in China||Yes|
|Horticulture||Escape from gardens||Yes|
|Seed trade||Seed found in imported clover seed||Yes||Yes|
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
Economic ImpactTop of page
Growing as it does on cultivated agricultural land, S. gallica may interfere to some extent with crop growth, but it seems unlikely that it has a major impact. It has been reported as a weed of sugarbeet in Morocco (Bouhache et al., 1994), of grapevine in Portugal (Espirito and Santo, 1989) and a common agricultural weed in Argentina (Bonjour, 1949). S. gallica has been suspected of poisoning livestock on a few occasions in Australia and East Africa, but there is very little information about these claims (Connor, 1977).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Fast growing
- Has high reproductive potential
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
UsesTop of page
S. gallica seems to have few medicinal or herbal uses. PFAF (2013, quoting Chopra et al., 1956) reported that the plant is said to be an emollient and is used in baths or as a fumigant. The juice of the plant is used in the treatment of ophthalmia.
Detection and InspectionTop of page
S. gallica is a member of the Caryophyllaceae family, characterised by mostly opposite entire leaves without stipules, flowers with 4-5 green sepals (fused into a calyx tube in the genus Silene), 8-10 stamens and a many-seeded capsule. S. gallica var. quinquevulnera has a wide red spot at the base of each petal, contrasting markedly from S. gallica var. gallica, which has white to pinkish petals (Queensland Government, 2013).
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
S. gallica differs from other similar species of Silene in its cover of soft sticky hairs, its small, narrow, lanceolate middle stem leaves, white to pinkish flowers all pointing in more or less the same direction in its loose inflorescences, and its weakly notched petals (National Museum of Wales, 2013). Mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium glomeratum) is similar as a seedling and young plant but it has smaller cotyledons and smaller, broader leaves with the widest point closer to the base (Herbiguide, 2013).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
S. gallica is relatively small and easy to pull out of the ground.
Most herbicides commonly used in crops, such as glyphosphate, would give adequate control of S. gallica. However, its control in waste places would rarely be warranted.
Control by utilization
S. gallica can be controlled by grazing (Herbiguide, 2013).
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
There seems to be remarkably little published information on S. gallica. More information on seed distribution, germination and longevity would be useful, as would observations on how long the plants live.
ReferencesTop of page
Anon, 2013. Alien Plants in Korea. Incheon, Korea: National Institute of Environmental Research, Ministry of Environment.
Bouhache M; Ezzahiri B, 1994. Characterization of the weed flora associated with sugarbeet in the Doukkalas. (Caracterisation de la flore adventice associée a la betterave a sucre dans les Doukkala.) Sucrerie Maghrebine, No. 57:32-38.
Chopra RN; Nayar SL; Copra IC, 1956. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants. New Delhi, India: Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
Clapham AR; Tutin TG; Warburg EF, 1962. Flora of the British Isles. Second edition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Connor HE, 1977. The Poisonous Plants of New Zealand. New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research Bulletin 99.
DAISIE, 2013. Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe. DAISIE (online). www.europe-aliens.org
Diniz MA, 1995. 19. Caryophyllaceae. In Flora de Cabo Verde. Lisbon, Portugal, Junta Nacional de Investigacao Cientifica e Tecnologica.
eFloras, 2013. Flora of China. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://www.efloras.org/flora_page.aspx?flora_id=2
Espírito Santo MD, 1989. Some aspects of the ecology of weeds of vineyards in Bombarral. (Quelques aspects d'ecologie des mauvaises herbes des vignobles du Bombarral.) EUR Publication, No. EUR 11548:533-542.
Gudzinskas Z, 1999. Conspectus of alien plant species of Lithuania. 11. Aristolochiaceae, Caryophyllaceae, Fumariaceae, Nyctaginaceae, Papaveraceae, Portulacaceae, and Ranunculaceae. Botanica Lithuanica, 5(3):203-218.
Guthrie-Smith H, 1953. Tutira. The Story of a New Zealand Sheep Station, 3rd edition. William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh:282-285.
Herbiguide, 2013. Herbiguide. http://www.herbiguide.com.au/
ITIS, 2013. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). Washington, DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution/NMNH. http://www.itis.gov/
Liang YiShuo; Wang JennChe, 2012. A newly naturalized plant in Taiwan: Silene gallica L. (Caryophyllaceae). Taiwan Journal of Forest Science, 27(4):397-401. http://www.tfri.gov.tw/enu/pub_science_cat.aspx
National Museum of Wales, 2013. Silene gallica. http://naturalhistory.museumwales.ac.uk/corespecies/CMS/Resources/pdfs/Silene_gallica/Silene_gallica.pdf
Northern Ireland Priority Species, 2013. Silene gallica - small-flowered catchfly. http://www.habitas.org.uk/priority/species.asp?item=2991
PFAF, 2013. Database. Plants for a Future. http://www.pfaf.org/user/plantsearch.aspx
PIER, 2013. Pacific Islands Ecosystems at Risk. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA: HEAR, University of Hawaii. http://www.hear.org/pier/index.html
Queensland Government, 2012. Weeds of Australia. Biosecurity Queensland Edition. Australia: The University of Queensland. http://keyserver.lucidcentral.org/weeds/
Randall RP, 2012. A Global Compendium of Weeds. Perth, Australia: Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, 1124 pp. http://www.cabi.org/isc/FullTextPDF/2013/20133109119.pdf
Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2013. Australia’s Virtual Herbarium. Sydney, Australia: Royal Botanic Gardens. http://avh.chah.org.au/
Salisbury E, 1964. Weeds and Aliens. 2nd Edition. London, UK: Collins.
Scannell MJP; Synnott DM, 1987. Census catalogue of the Flora of Ireland, 2nd edition. Dublin, Ireland: The Stationery Office.
Stace C, 1997. New Flora of the British Isles. 2nd edition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
USDA-ARS, 2013. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysearch.aspx
USDA-NRCS, 2013. The PLANTS Database. Baton Rouge, USA: National Plant Data Center. http://plants.usda.gov/
Vibrans H, 2011. [English title not available]. (Malezas de México. Listado alfabético por familia, géneroy especie.) . http://www.conabio.gob.mx/malezasdemexico/2inicio/paginas/listaplantas
Webb CJ; Sykes WR; Garnock-Jones PJ, 1988. Flora of New Zealand Volume IV. Naturalised Pteridophytes, Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Christchurch, New Zealand: DSIR Botany Division, 1365 pp. http://floraseries.landcareresearch.co.nz/pages/Book.aspx?fileName=Flora%204.xml
Anon, 2013. Alien Plants in Korea., Incheon, Korea: National Institute of Environmental Research, Ministry of Environment.
CABI Data Mining, 2011. Invasive Species Databases.,
CABI, Undated. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI
DAISIE, 2013. Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe. http://www.europe-aliens.org/
Diniz M A, 1995. Cape Verde flora. Vascular plants. Caryophyllaceae. (Flora de Cabo Verde. Plantas vasculares. Caryophyllaceae.). In: Flora de Cabo Verde, Lisboa, Portugal: Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical. 26 pp.
Gudžinskas Z, 1999. Conspectus of alien plant species of Lithuania. 11. Aristolochiaceae, Caryophyllaceae, Fumariaceae, Nyctaginaceae, Papaveraceae, Portulacaceae, and Ranunculaceae. Botanica Lithuanica. 5 (3), 203-218.
Liang YiShuo, Wang JennChe, 2012. A newly naturalized plant in Taiwan: Silene gallica L. (Caryophyllaceae). Taiwan Journal of Forest Science. 27 (4), 397-401. http://www.tfri.gov.tw/enu/pub_science_cat.aspx
PIER, 2013. Pacific Islands Ecosystems at Risk., Honolulu, Hawaii, USA: HEAR, University of Hawaii. http://www.hear.org/pier/index.html
Queensland Government, 2012. Weeds of Australia. Biosecurity Queensland Edition., Australia: The University of Queensland. http://keyserver.lucidcentral.org/weeds/
Seebens H, Blackburn T M, Dyer E E, Genovesi P, Hulme P E, Jeschke J M, Pagad S, Pyšek P, Winter M, Arianoutsou M, Bacher S, Blasius B, Brundu G, Capinha C, Celesti-Grapow L, Dawson W, Dullinger S, Fuentes N, Jäger H, Kartesz J, Kenis M, Kreft H, Kühn I, Lenzner B, Liebhold A, Mosena A (et al), 2017. No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide. Nature Communications. 8 (2), 14435. http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14435
USDA-ARS, 2013. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysimple.aspx
USDA-NRCS, 2013. The PLANTS Database. Greensboro, North Carolina, USA: National Plant Data Team. https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov
Vibrans H, 2011. [English title not available]. (Listado alfabético por familia, géneroy especie)., http://www.conabio.gob.mx/malezasdemexico/2inicio/paginas/listaplantas
Webb C J, Sykes W R, Garnock-Jones P J, 1988. Flora of New Zealand, Volume IV: Naturalised pteridophytes, gymnosperms, dicotyledons. Christchurch, New Zealand: Botany Division, DSIR. 1365 pp. http://floraseries.landcareresearch.co.nz/pages/Book.aspx?fileName=Flora%204.xml
ContributorsTop of page
16/11/13 Original text by:
Ian Popay, consultant, New Zealand, with the support of Landcare Research.
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