Fire Pink, Virginia Catchfly – Flowers

(Silene Virginica) Pink family

Flowers—Scarlet or crimson, 1 1/2 in. broad or less, a few on slender pedicels from the upper leaf-axils. Calyx sticky, tubular, bell-shaped, 5-cleft, enlarged in fruit ; corolla of 5 wide-spread, narrow, notched petals, sometimes – deeply 2-cleft ; to stamens ; 3 styles. Stem : 1 to 2 ft. high ; erect, slender, sticky. Leaves : Thin, spatulate, 3 to 5 in. long ; or upper ones oblong to lance-shaped.

Preferred Habitat—Dry, open woodland.

Flowering Season—May—September.

Distribution—Southern New jersey to Minnesota, south to Georgia and Missouri.

The rich, glowing scarlet of these pinks that fleck the Southern woodland as with fire, will light up our Northern rock gardens too, if we but sow the seed under glass in earliest spring, and set out the young plants in well-drained, open ground in May. Division of old perennial roots causes the plants to sulk ; dampness destroys them.

To the brilliant blossoms butterflies chiefly come to sip (see p. 92), and an occasional humming bird, fascinated by the color that seems ever irresistible to him, hovers above them on whirring wings. Hapless ants, starting to crawl up the stem, become more and more discouraged by its stickiness, and if they persevere in their attempts to steal from the butterfly’s legitimate preserves, death overtakes their erring feet as speedily as if they ventured on sticky fly paper. How humane is the way to protect flowers from crawling thieves that has been adopted by the high-bush cranberry and the partridge pea, among other plants ! These provide a free lunch of sweets in the glands of their leaves to satisfy pilferers, which then seek no farther, leaving the flowers to winged insects that are at once despoilers and benefactors.