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Nottingham Catchfly

Silene nutans

  • Name also: Eurasian Catchfly (USA)
  • Family: Pink Family – Caryophyllaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock pale.
  • Height: 20–40 cm (8–16 in.). With many stems, stem ascending–erect, usually soft-haired and especially upper part with glandular hairs, sticky.
  • Flower: Corolla regular (actinomorphic), yellowish white, approx. 1.5–2.5 cm (0.6–1 in.) broad; petals 5, deeply 2-lobed. Corolla mouth with lobed corona. Calyx fused, narrow, 5-lobed, 10-veined. Stamens 10. Gynoecium syncarpous, with 3 styles. Inflorescence many-flowered, sparse, a one-sided raceme. Flowers nodding, closed during the day, opening in evening and fragrant at night.
  • Leaves: Opposite, basal leaves stalked, stem leaves stalkless, 2–4 pairs. Basal leaf blades obovate–narrowly elliptic–lanceolate, upper stem leaves’ linearly lanceolate, with entire margins.
  • Fruit: Yellowish, 7–10 mm (0.28–0.4 in.) long capsule.
  • Habitat: Hillside ridges, dry and sandy meadows, ridges, rocky banks, road cuttings, banks, commons.
  • Flowering time: June–July.

Nottingham catchfly grows mainly in culturally influenced environments in southern Finland, although it may be found as far north as Enontekiö. It favours dry, sunny places: sandy soil, hill slopes and forest margins. It is native to eskers and rocky banks, but often it grows around artificially created places such as commons and graveyards.

The branches of Nottingham catchfly’s inflorescence are lopsidedly nodding. The flowers are closed during the day but they open up in the evening and emit a powerful fragrance which resembles hyacinth. In the twilight of summer evenings its shining white flowers are especially attractive to butterflies, which don’t land on the flower at all but rather suck the nectar through their long proboscises while hovering in front of it. As they feed, however, they touch the protruding stamens or the stigmas. Several visits by butterflies are required for all the seed subjects to be fertilized. Nottingham catchfly tries to ensure cross-pollination by first developing staminate whorls and then only making the stigma lobes visible when the former have withered. Pollination as a whole is usually successful and the majority of the flowers develop capsules.

The sticky glandular hairs on Nottingham catchfly’s upper stem, flower stalks and calyx stop unwelcome guests climbing the stalk to plunder its stores of nectar, just like the sticky substance on the stem of sticky catchfly (Viscaria vulgaris). These two species can be easily confused when they are both flowerless leaf rosettes, although Nottingham catchfly’s are the softer and greener of the two.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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