On my way to work early this morning, a stand of showy White Campion caught my eye. It was just growing in a roadside ditch that hadn’t been mowed yet. I felt like it was a little bit early in the year for this plant to be in bloom (I think of this as a summer flower), so after work, around 5:00, I walked up to the street to confirm what they were. Lo and behold, I found most of the blooms to now be closed!
It turns out that the first interesting thing you need to know about White Campion is that it is also called Evening Lychnis, because the flowers open at night to allow for moths to pollinate them. By late morning they are beginning to close again, and you probably won’t notice them at all in the afternoon!
White Campion has white flowers that occur in clusters. Each flower has 5 petals, and each petal is cut deeply into 2 lobes, giving it a heart-shaped appearance. Male and female flowers are borne on different plants. The calyx (the puffy part behind the petals) of the female flower is larger, more inflated, and has more veins (or nerves) than the male. The flowering stems of white campion have lightly hairy (or downy) leaves that are oppositely paired, ovate, and entire (see below). The plant grows 1-3 feet in height.
Look for White Campion growing in open areas and along roadsides, from May through September.
There are two other “white” campion species (genus Silene) you should look at: Bladder Campion and Starry Campion. They all have a distinctive, inflated calyx, which is sometimes referred to as a “bladder”.