French Catchfly

Silene gallica L.

Synonyms - Silene anglica

Family: - Caryophyllaceae.


Silene named after Silenus the fat friend of Bacchus and probably refers to the enlarged calyx of some species in this genus.


French Catchfly.

Other names:

Mother Marm.

Five-wounded Catchfly because the five petals have a red blotch.


A sticky, glandular hairy, erect, somewhat straggly, annual herb to 50 cm tall with narrow leaves and small, flowers mainly on one side of the stem from mid winter to early summer. The five petals are white, pink or pinkish with a red blotch and are notched and the capsule is striped.



Two. 6-8 mm long. Petiole 1-2 mm long with a few hairs. Seedling has a short hypocotyl and no epicotyl.

First Leaves:

Paired, 20-25 mm long. Broad, short, merging petiole. Scattered hairs.


Opposite. Each pair of leaves is at right angles to those below.

Stipules - Leaves linked by membranes encircling the stem at the base of the leaf.

Petiole - On lower leaves only.

Blade - Lower leaves, spoon shaped, 18-50 mm long by 5-10 mm wide, obtuse tipped. Midrib forms a small point at the tip of the leaf.

Upper leaves, narrowly egg shaped to oblong, 15-30 mm long by 3-5 mm wide with a pointed tip. Few long hairs.


Slender, 150-500 mm high, fluted, solid, pithy, slightly sticky, almost erect or prostrate and bent upwards at the tips. Glandular, short rough and long multicellular hairs. Sparsely branched, especially at the base.

Flower head:

Flowers borne on one side in leaf axils near the ends of stems in simple 1-sided raceme-like cymes. Lower flowers have 8-20 mm long stalks(pedicels), upper ones don't.


Variable colouring of white, pink and red, erect, 6 mm wide.

Bracts - Leafy, longer than the flower stalks(pedicels).

Ovary - 3 styles.

Calyx - 5 awl shaped teeth and white membranes, tubular, urn shaped sticky with 10 veins. When in fruit, egg shaped, 6-10 mm long, contracted near the top. Glandular, short simple and multicellular hairs.

Petals - 5, white to pink maybe with a red blotch near the base, slightly longer than the calyx, with along narrow claw and 2 small, erect, 1 mm long, pointed scales at the base, smooth tipped or notched.

Stamens - 10

Anthers -


Egg shaped, capsule enclosed in the calyx, striped, 6-8 mm long by 4-5.5 mm wide. On a very short stalk. Opens at the top with 6 teeth. Many seeded.


Black, kidney shaped, 0.8 mm long, rings of granules on the surface, thickened on the back, sides sunken(concave).



Key Characters:

Calyx ovoid, 10 nerved, not bladdery, tube urceolate, hairy with short simple glandular and long multicellular hairs.

Flowers numerous, in simple, one-sided, racemes-like cymes.

Carpophore very short.

From J.M. Black and J.R. Wheeler.


Life cycle:

Annual. Seeds germinate in autumn and spring. Flowers late winter to spring



By seed.

Flowering times:

Spring to early summer in western NSW.

August to December in SA.

July to December in Perth.

Winter to early summer in WA.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:



Several varieties. Variety gallica has pink petals. Variety quinquevulnera has a red-purple blotch in the centre of the larger white to pinkish petals. Variety anglica has curved or spreading fruiting pedicels longer than the calyx.


Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by seed.

Origin and History:

Europe. Mediterranean.



More common in the south than the north of Tasmania.



Temperate. Mediterranean.


Wide range.

Plant Associations:




Weed of crops, pastures, roadsides and disturbed areas.


Contains toxins but no cases of poisoning in the field have been recorded.



Management and Control:

Grazing normally provides control.

Glyphosate or Spray.Seed® can be used for small infestations and terbutryn for more selective control.


Eradication strategies:

Apply a mixture of 200 mL Agtryne MA® plus 400 mL Atrazine(500 g/L) plus 100 mL spray oil per 100 L water to plants before flowering. Repeat as necessary. Remove survivors by hand.

Prevent seed set.

Herbicide resistance:

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) has a hairless calyx.

Five-wounded Catchfly (Silene gallica var. quinquevulnera) has red and white petals.

Mallee Catchfly (Silene apetala) is very similar but is less hairy.

Mediterranean Catchfly (Silene nocturna) is similar but has a more cylindrical fruiting calyx and deeply lobed petals.

North African Catchfly (Silene pseudoatocion)

Portuguese Catchfly (Silene longicaulis)

Red Campion (Silene dioica)

Sea Campion (Silene uniflora or Silene maritima)

Spanish Catchfly (Silene tridentata)

Striated Catchfly (Silene conica)

Sweet-William (Silene armeria)

Turkish Catchfly (Silene atocioides or Silene schafta)

Two-branched Catchfly (Silene dichotoma)

White Campion (Silene pratensis or alba)

Plants of similar appearance:

Mouse eared Chickweed is similar as a seedling and young plant but it has smaller cotyledons and smaller, broader leaves with the widest point closer to the base.


Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P145. Photo.

Black, J.M. (1965). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P359. Diagram.

Burbidge, N.T. and Gray, M. (1970). Flora of the Australian Capital Territory. (Australian National University Press, Canberra). P169-170. Diagram.

Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.L. and Leigh, J.H. (1992). Plants of Western New South Wales. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P304. Photo.

Gardner, G.A. and Bennetts, H.W. (1956). The toxic plants of Western Australia. (West Australian Newspapers Ltd, Perth). P28.

Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Cousens, R.D., Dodd, J. and Lloyd, S.G. (1997). Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. (Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia). P130. Photos.

Hyde-Wyatt, B.H. and Morris, D.I. (1975). Tasmanian weed handbook. (Tasmanian Department of Agriculture, Hobart, Tasmania). P74-75. Diagrams.

Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne).

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #1133.8, 1133.9.

Marchant, N.G., Wheeler, J.R., Rye, B.L., Bennett, E.M., Lander, N.S. and Macfarlane, T.D. (1987). Flora of the Perth Region. (Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Agriculture, Western Australia). P104, 108. Diagram.


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