Silene latifolia subsp. alba (white campion)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- Biology and Ecology
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Silene latifolia subsp. alba (Mill.) Greuter & Burdet
Preferred Common Name
- white campion
Other Scientific Names
- Lychnis alba Mill.
- Melandrium album (Mill.) Garcke
- Melandrium vespertinum Fr.
- Silene alba (Mill.) E.H.L. Krause
- Silene pratensis Godr.
International Common Names
- English: bladder campion; campion (white); evening campion; white cockle
- Spanish: colleja blanca
- French: compagnon blanc; lychnis dioique; melandrie blanche
- Chinese: bai jian qiu luo
- Portuguese: assobios
Local Common Names
- Germany: weisse Lichtnelke; weisse Nachtnelke; weisse Waldnelke
- Italy: boccon di pecora; gittaione bianco; melandrio bianco; orecchiella; orecchietta
- Japan: hirohanomantema; Matsuyoisenno
- Netherlands: avondkoekoeksbloem
- Poland: bniec bialy; lepnica biala
- Sweden: vitblaera
- MELAL (Silene latifolia subsp. alba)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
S. latifolia subsp. alba is a biennial or short-lived perennial herb growing to 1 m in height, producing white, 5-petalled, showy flowers. Native to Eurasia, it has been introduced to East Asia, Australasia, and North and South America. In some introduced areas it has become a noxious invasive weed of hay fields and pastures. In North America it is a seed contaminant of lucerne (alfalfa), clover, grass and small grain seed crops. In western North America it is displacing the native and threatened Silene spaldingii.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Caryophyllales
- Family: Caryophyllaceae
- Genus: Silene
- Species: Silene latifolia subsp. alba
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The generic name Silene originally given by Linnaeus is thought to derive from the name of the Greek woodland god Selinus who was often depicted drunk and covered in a sticky foam from his drinking (Loudon, 1840); the name therefore alludes to the frothy foam secreted by female flowers of S. dioica (red campion) for capturing pollen. The specific epithet latifolia means wide-leaved, as leaves of S. latifolia subsp. alba are generally wider than those of the closely related S. dioica (First Nature, 2015). The subspecific epithet alba refers to the white colour of the flowers.
The taxonomy of this species is very confused. Most current botanists accept the name Silene latifolia subsp. alba, but in the literature a wide variety of other names can be found, some of them very similar to the names of similar species. Older taxonomic treatments place S. latifolia subsp. alba in the genus Lychnis, which differs from Silene in very small structural details of the flowers; however, Robinson and Fernald (1908) record both L. alba and S. latifolia, while other botanists record this species as S. alba. The differences between taxa were deemed so minor that taxonomists decided to disband Lychnis, absorbing its members into Silene (Flora Pittsburghensis, 2015). S. latifolia subsp. alba was validly published in 1982 in Willdenowia 12:189 (Greuter and Raus, 1982).
The common name 'white campion' is thought to be related to the word 'champion', as the flowers were used in the garlands used to crown the victors in ancient games.
DescriptionTop of page
S. latifolia subsp. alba is a biennial or short-lived perennial herb growing to 1 m in height. It has a tap root system which spreads laterally as the plant matures. Stems have hairs on the lower section that become glandular nearer the flower. Leaves are egg-shaped, and lower leaves are up to 10 cm long, reducing in size upward. Stem leaves are opposite. Inflorescences comprise unisexual flowers (plants are dioecious, i.e., either male or female) which are rather showy, evening blooming and scented; there are several to many in open, spreading, leafy-bracted clusters. Petals 5, white, tips wide, deeply notched into 2 lobes, 2 appendages above each petal in the flower centre, dividing into 2 lobes. Sepals 5, united, forming a downy, sticky tube 15-20 mm long. The calyx of the male flower has 10 veins; the female’s 20 veins are longer, and inflate with ripening. Capsules are egg-shaped, to 20 mm long, with 10 teeth. Seeds are about 1.5 mm long, dark bluish-brown, and prominently warty-pimply in concentric rows (Alberta Weed Monitoring Network, 2014).
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
The native range of S. latifolia subsp. alba encompasses most of Europe, from Scandinavia and the UK in the north, to the Mediterranean and western North Africa (Morocco, Algeria), then east to West Asia and through Russia as far as its Far Eastern provinces. The species has been introduced to East Asia (China, Japan), Australia, New Zealand and North America, and there are reports from South America (GBIF, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015). In Canada it is reported from every southern Canadian province from British Columbia to Newfoundland. It is listed as a noxious weed in Alberta and as a class C noxious weed in Washington State, USA (Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, 2010; Center for Invasive Species Management, 2014). In the USA it is found in most states, particularly in those of the north-central and north-eastern areas (USDA-ARS, 2015; USDA-NRCS, 2015).
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: 25 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|China||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|Russia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Russian Far East||Present||Native|
|-Newfoundland and Labrador||Present||Introduced|
|-Prince Edward Island||Present||Introduced|
|Saint Pierre and Miquelon||Present||Introduced|
|-District of Columbia||Present||Introduced|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
S. latifolia subsp. alba was introduced multiple times from western and eastern Europe into western and eastern North America (Keller et al., 2012) from about 200 years ago, possibly as a component of ship ballast, which at the time largely comprised sand, stone and soil. It was first reported in Ontario, Canada, in 1875 (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, 2015). Blair and Wolfe (2004) found that the successful and rapid invasion of North America by the species was due to natural selection favouring individuals with earlier germination, faster growth, greater flower production, and higher survival rates due to release from natural enemies.
IntroductionsTop of page
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
S. latifolia subsp. alba can be introduced to new areas by accidental inclusion as a contaminant in fodder crop seed or as a contaminant of hay imported for livestock feeding.
HabitatTop of page
S. latifolia subsp. alba is commonly found in pastures and hay fields, along roadsides and rights-of-way, on grass embankments and in wasteland, as well as in many undisturbed areas (Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, 2010). It prefers well-drained soils and is seldom seen in dry climates. Seedlings do not tolerate high temperatures.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
S. latifolia subsp. alba competes with seed crop species including lucerne, clovers, grasses such as timothy and small grains. It displaces native plants such as the threatened Silene spaldingii (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Growth StagesTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The chromosome number of S. latifolia subsp. alba is 2n=24 (Halkka, 1985). It hybridizes with S. dioica when both species grow in close proximity, producing offspring with pink flowers (NatureGate, 2015).
S. latifolia subsp. alba is dioecious and thus obligatory outcrossing. Male flowers open longer than female ones in order to increase the chance of pollen dispersal by insects. The longer the flowers are open, the higher the chances that pollination will occur. Flowers usually open for more than 12 hours, from evening until mid-morning the next day, allowing a range of both diurnal and nocturnal pollinators to effect pollination. Most pollination occurs at night, the primary nocturnal pollinators being noctuid and sphingid moths. Diurnal pollinators are bees, flies and wasps (Young, 2002). Plants are profuse seed producers; a single plant produces about 50 capsules, each capsule containing about 500 seeds (Frendahl and Anderson, 2013).
S. latifolia is a key plant model in the study of sex determination and sex chromosome evolution (Kejnovsky and Vyskot, 2010).
Physiology and Phenology
S. latifolia subsp. alba flowers from the end of April up to the end of October, but usually has two distinct flowering peaks at the end of May and the beginning of August (Biere and Honders, 1996).
It is a biennial or short-lived perennial (Alberta Weed Monitoring Network, 2014).
S. latifolia subsp. alba is an alternative host or vector for Lychnis ringspot virus, which infects sugarbeet (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, 2015).
It can grow on light sandy, loam and heavy clay soils, with pH acid, neutral and alkaline. It prefers moist soil and cannot grow in the shade.
ClimateTop of page
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
|Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter||Preferred||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
|Df - Continental climate, wet all year||Preferred||Continental climate, wet all year (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, wet all year)|
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Hadena bicruris||Herbivore||Seedlings/Seeds||Brantjes (1976); Elzinga et al. (2005)|
|Microbotryum lychnidis-dioicae||Pathogen||Fontaine et al. (2013)|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
In western Europe, the caterpillars of the specialist Hadena bicruris, a night-active pollinating moth, are the most important herbivores consuming developing seeds of S. latifolia (Brantjes, 1976; Elzinga et al., 2005).
In North America, S. latifolia populations have become infected by the anther smut pathogen Microbotryum lychnidis-dioicae, a member of the M. violaceum complex, brought in fairly recently from Europe; the system is a well-studied model in evolutionary biology and ecology. Fontaine et al. (2013) found that the actual pathogen was likely introduced as a single population from Scotland, UK.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
S. latifolia subsp. alba spreads mostly by seed, but root and stem fragments can establish. Seed is dispersed by wind (Jongejans and Schippers, 1999).
S. latifolia subsp. alba can be spread as a contaminant of lucerne, clover, timothy (Phleum pratense) and other seed crops, and in hay for livestock feeding (Alberta Weed Monitoring Network, 2014).
Pathway CausesTop of page
|Crop production||Seed contaminant||Yes||Yes||Alberta Weed Monitoring Network (2014)|
|Forage||Contaminant of hay||Yes||Yes||Alberta Weed Monitoring Network (2014)|
|Hitchhiker||Originally introduced in ship ballast||Yes|
|Seed trade||Seed contaminant||Yes||Yes||Alberta Weed Monitoring Network (2014)|
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|True seeds (inc. grain)||Yes|
Impact SummaryTop of page
Economic ImpactTop of page
As S. latifolia subsp. alba seed is similar in size and shape to clover and lucerne seed, it is often encountered as a difficult-to-separate contaminant of commercial seed crops, which results in yield and economic losses in clover and lucerne seed production. It can also contaminate small grains and grass seed (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, 2015). In Minnesota, USA, approximately 7% of the timothy seed intended for certification is rejected due to S. latifolia subsp. alba contamination (Strand and Wyse, 1982). S. latifolia subsp. alba is also problematic for Washington’s timothy growers (Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, 2010).
Efforts to extirpate S. latifolia subsp. alba and other invasive alien plants from key conservation areas occupied by the threatened native species S. spaldingii in the western USA was estimated to cost a total of US $8,666,000, with an average yearly cost across the first 5 years of US $349,200. Of the estimated total, roughly a quarter was for surveys and monitoring (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007).
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Biodiversity
The presence of S. latifolia subsp. alba can have negative impacts on native plants. One such is the endangered species S. spaldingii (Spalding’s catchfly), a regional endemic found predominantly in bunchgrass grasslands and sagebrush steppe, occasionally in open pine communities, in eastern Washington, northeastern Oregon, west-central Idaho and western Montana in the USA, extending into southern British Columbia, Canada. There are currently 99 known populations, with 66 of these composed of fewer than 100 individuals each. The species was listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act in 2001 (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2001) as it is impacted by habitat loss due to human development, habitat degradation associated with adverse grazing and trampling by domestic livestock and wildlife, and invasions of aggressive non-native plants, including S. latifolia subsp. alba, which can be separated from S. spaldingii by its much larger, inflated flowers. As part of the recovery plan for S. spaldingii, invasive alien plants with the potential to displace it have been continually controlled or eradicated within a 100-m radius of all populations within key conservation areas by utilizing integrated pest management measures. These measures include use of herbicides (e.g., spot spraying), prescribed burning and hand pulling (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Has high reproductive potential
- Reproduces asexually
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts livelihoods
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
Roots contain saponin which, although mildly toxic, has been used in soap making; soap can be obtained by simmering roots in hot water (First Nature, 2015).
S. latifolia subsp. alba is noted for attracting wildlife (Plants for a Future, 2015), particularly pollinating insects. Prior to dispersal, seeds are a source of food for noctuid moth larvae (Wright and Meagher, 2003).
Uses ListTop of page
- Wildlife habitat
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Apart from flower colour and wider leaves, S. latifolia subsp. alba is very similar to S. dioica. Two other campions, S. vulgaris (bladder campion) and S. uniflora (sea campion), are sometimes mistaken for S. latifolia subsp. alba, but S. vulgaris has branched flower stems and greatly enlarged sepal tubes (seed pods), while S. uniflora is a short plant also with swollen sepal tubes but having unbranched flower stems, each topped by a single bloom (First Nature, 2015). Furthermore, S. vulgaris is not hairy or sticky, seed capsules only have 6 teeth and the calyx has netted veins. S. noctiflora also has similar flower appearance to S. latifolia subsp. alba but is hairy and sticky, its seed capsules only have 6 teeth and the calyx has branched veins. In general, S. latifolia subsp. alba can be differentiated from similar species by having (i) white flowers with 5 lobed/notched petals; (ii) leaves that are opposite and hairy; (iii) flowers which open at night and have a pleasant odour; (iv) hairy stems which may become almost woody when mature; and (v) a tap root and lateral roots (Alberta Weed Monitoring Network, 2014).
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.
To prevent the infestation of pastures and seed crops by S. latifolia subsp. alba, the use of grass and legume seed that has a Certificate of Analysis declaring it free of S. latifolia subsp. alba seed is advocated. Also, any hay for livestock feeding should be certified as free of S. latifolia subsp. alba. As it requires full sun for best growth, crops sown at high densities and vigorous forage stands can generally outcompete its seedlings; however, established campion is not significantly reduced by crop competition (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, 2015).
Eradication of S. latifolia subsp. alba from S. spaldingii habitats involves the use of integrated pest management measures (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007).
Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures
Cultivation or tillage for seedbed preparation will kill many S. latifolia subsp. alba plants, although well-established plants generally survive cultivation, and tillage will promote weed seed germination. Tillage should be deep enough to cut off roots below the crown and deposit the plant on the soil surface to dry out. Tillage can be a suitable control method in row crops or prior to sowing small-seeded grasses or legumes. Surface tillage will also control seedlings in summer fallow situations. The addition of fertilizer to the crop, unfortunately, will enhance S. latifolia subsp. alba growth. Mowing can be effective in preventing campion seed production, but the weed can withstand annual mowing as the root will send up new shoots (Strand and Wyse, 1982; Alberta Weed Monitoring Network, 2014).
Hand pulling will work for small infestations, but the entire root must be removed (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, 2015).
Based on information from Minnesota, S. latifolia subsp. alba can be controlled in field crops by herbicide application most easily when it is at the seedling stage or during seed germination. In grass seed fields, dicamba has been shown to be the most effective, while for small-seeded legumes, benefin (benfluralin) gave the best results in new sowings. Metribuzin was among several herbicides used effectively on older stands (Strand and Wyse, 1982).
Integrated pest management practices used in controlling S. latifolia subsp. alba in S. spaldingii habitats include spot spraying of herbicides, prescribed burning and hand pulling (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007).
ReferencesTop of page
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, 2015. Pest selector: cockle, white. Canada: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. http://www.agric.gov.ab.ca/app107/printerfriendly?id=61
Alberta Weed Monitoring Network, 2014. White cockle (Silene latifolia ssp. alba). http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$Department/deptdocs.nsf/all/prm13930
Blair AC; Wolfe LM, 2004. The evolution of an invasive plant: an experimental study with Silene latifolia. Ecology, 85(11):3035-3042. http://www.esajournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1890%2F04-0341
Brantjes NBM, 1976. Prevention of superparasitism of Melandrium flowers (Caryophyllaceae) by Hadena (Lepidoptera). Oecologia, 24:1-6.
Center for Invasive Species Management, 2014. State and province noxious weed lists. Montana State University-Bozeman, USA: Center for Invasive Species Management. http://www.weedcenter.org/resources/state.html
Elzinga JA; Turin H; Damme JMMvan; Biere A, 2005. Plant population size and isolation affect herbivory of Silene latifolia by the specialist herbivore Hadena bicruris and parasitism of the herbivore by parasitoids. Oecologia, 144(3):416-426. http://springerlink.metapress.com/link.asp?id=100458
First Nature, 2015. Silene latifolia - white campion. http://www.first-nature.com/flowers/silene-latifolia.php
Flora Pittsburghensis, 2015. White campion (Silene latifolia ssp. alba). https://florapittsburghensis.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/white-campion-silene-latifolia-ssp-alba/
Fontaine MC; Gladieux P; Hood ME; Giraud T, 2013. History of the invasion of the anther smut pathogen on Silene latifolia in North America. New Phytologist, 198(3):946-956. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1469-8137
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ContributorsTop of page
22/06/15 Original text by:
Andrew Praciak, Consultant, UK
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