Pink Family – Caryophyllaceae – identification
The Pink family has 86 genera and 2200 species. It can be divided into 3 sub-families of which two are described here – Silenoideae which includes Silene, Dianthus (carnations and pinks), Agrostemma (corn cockle) and Lychnis and Alsinoideae which includes Cerastium (Snow in summer) and Stellaria (Stitchwort). The scientific name Caryophyllaceae is derived from the Greek word for the clove pink Dianthus caryophyllus, a relative of the carnation that smells like cloves. The name ‘Pink’ may refer to the Dianthus petals which have serrated edges similar to the cuts produced by pinking shears originally developed in the 16th century.
The basic flower in this family has 5 sepals, 5 petals, 5 or 10 stamens, 2 to 5 styles and 2 to 5 superior ovaries. Nectaries are at the base of the ovaries. Fruit is a capsule which splits at the top with the seeds dispersed by the wind.
Red Campion Silene dioica is an abundant wild flower native to Britain. It is found in woods and hedgerows. As the scientific name indicates this species is dioecious – it has separate male and female plants, but most species in this family have flowers in which male and female parts are combined. Both flowers have white corona scales at the base of the petals where they form a short, white corona inside the pink petals. Both flowers secrete nectar. The plant is pollinated by bumble-bees and long-tongued flies. White Campion Silene latifolia and Bladder Campion Silene vulgaris are closely related wild flower species
Red Campion female flower with 5 style/stigmas. The 5 notched petals are free but they are constrained within a tube of sepals.
Ragged Robin Silene flos-cuculi is a wild flower native to Britain. It flowers in damp meadows and woods from May to August. It has 5 deeply divided petals
Corn Cockle Agrostemma githago is an introduced wild flower that was common in cornfields throughout Britain. It is native to the Mediterranean region. It is an annual. It flowers from May to August.
Jerusalem Cross Lychnis chalcedonica is native to Russia and China. It has red coronal scales inside the red petals. It is a popular garden plant.
Dianthus ‘Doris’ Dianthus allwoodii ‘Doris’ is a Modern Pink. Dianthus is a genus of 300 species and thousands of cultivars known as Pinks and Carnations. Species have 5 petals but cultivars may have many multiples of 5 as shown here
Sweet William Dianthus barbatus is native to Southern Europe. It is a favourite garden plant in Britain, visited by butterflies and hawkmoths. It first arrived in Britain in 1573.