- Family: Pink Family – Caryophyllaceae
- Growing form: Perennial herb. Loosely tufted. Rootstock strong.
- Height: 10–30 cm (4–12 in.). Stem prostrate–ascending, slightly hairy, rough, green–bluish green.
- Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), purplish red (occasionally pink or white), dark-striped and dark or white-spotted, 1.5–2 cm (0.6–0.8 in.) broad; petals 5, with toothed tips. Calyx fused, tubular, becoming narrower towards top, 5-lobed, with epicalyx, often reddish. Stamens 10. Pistil of 2 fused carpels, styles 2. Flowers a solitary–sparse cyme, fragrant.
- Leaves: Opposite, stalkless, united at base. Blade linear–linearly lanceolate, almost needle-like, with finely toothed margins, parallel-veined.
- Fruit: Narrowly elliptic, greenish, 4-valved capsule.
- Habitat: Meadows, stony hillside ridges, hillside meadows, banks, roadsides. Also an ornamental.
- Flowering time: June–August.
- Endangerment: Near threatened.
Maiden pink has been characterised as one of Finland’s reddest wild flowers. Actually though, it sometimes has white flowers, and pink-flowered plants can sometimes be found within a group. Pollination is carried out almost solely by day butterflies, because other species can’t distinguish between different shades of red. The structure of the flower has also adapted to butterfly pollination: only their narrow proboscis can fit inside the restricted mouth of the corolla. The joyful red flowers have always caught people’s attention and the species has been endowed with a host of folk names. Some of these have been based on the flower’s form, some in relation to leading figures in Christianity, and some are beautiful or nostalgic.
Maiden pink thrives best in dry meadows with poor amounts of nitrogen and low-growing vegetation. Its loosely tufted way of growing is an adaptation to help it survive dry spells and its deep rootstock also helps. Additionally, maiden pink also features the narrow and slightly wax-covered leaves that are typical of plants that grow in dry areas (xerophytes). In rich areas maiden pink grows beside stones, where it thrives better than larger species. It quickly becomes rarer, however, when its habitat starts to become overgrown. It has become a primary example of those traditional Finnish plants that are finding it hard going in meadows. When the land is dug up maiden pink often grows abundantly from its seed bank, so maiden pink meadows can keep growing decoratively in the wild with the help of grazing or a similar method of maintenance.
Maiden pink is also grown as a garden plant in rockeries, and it is also included in some meadow seed mixes so it can turn up in surprisingly new places. Maiden pink’s genus includes popular ornamental plants, but only a few grow wild in Finland. Some can escape from the garden and go wild, however, including Sweet William (D. barbatus), whose flowers are reminiscent of maiden pink’s, although its inflorescences are dense-flowered and the flowers have narrow bracts at their base.