Mallee Catchfly

Silene apetala Willd.

Synonyms -

Family: Caryophyllaceae

Names:

Silene named after Silenus the fat friend of Bacchus (the God of wine) and probably refers to the enlarged calyx of some species in this genus. Or, from the Greek sialon meaning saliva and referring to glandular exudation on stems of some species.
Apetala refers to the lack of petals on the flower.
Mallee Catchfly refers to its occurrence in the Mallee areas of Australia and the insect-trapping gummy secretions on the stems.

Other Names:

Sand Catchfly.

Summary:

A straggly, downy, annual herb with opposite leaves and flowers that have no petals.

Description:

Cotyledons:

Two. Oval. Tip round. Edges smooth. Base tapered. Short petiole. Hairless.

First leaves:

Opposite. Spear shaped. Tip pointed. Edges smooth. Base tapered. Long hairs at base, short hairs all over.

Leaves:

Opposite.
Stipules - None.
Petiole - None.
Blade - Spear shaped up to 10-30 mm long x 2-5 mm wide. Tip pointed. Edges smooth. Base tapered. Hairy.

Stems:

Erect up to 450 mm tall. Single or branched. Hairy with white, spreading, multicellular hairs.

Flower head:

Flowers on longish stalks arising from the leaf axils. Cyme with opposite and approximately equal branches.

Flowers:

Green with no petals.
Ovary - 3 locular at base, 1 locular above.
Styles - 3-5
Calyx - 5 toothed, tubular, 7-9 mm long, bell shaped, 10-30 veined. Veins covered with long, white, low lying, multicellular hairs. Hairless or with simple hairs between the veins
Petals - Very short or none.
Stamens - 10
Anthers -

Fruit:

Oblong capsule, 5-10 mm long x 4 mm wide. Opens by 6 bent back teeth to release seed when ripe. Many seeds.

Seeds:

Black to brown, dull, kidney shaped, small, 1 mm diameter. Back narrowly grooved between two wings.

Roots:

Key Characters:

Only the primary leaf vein prominent.
Inflorescence a dichasial cyme.
Flowers bisexual.
Calyx hairy with simple and multi glandular hairs, 10 veined.
Fruiting calyx campanulate.
Styles 3
Adapted from Gwen Harden.

Biology:

Life cycle:

Annual herb. Seeds germinate from autumn to winter.

Physiology:

Reproduction:

By seed.

Flowering times:

Spring in NSW.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:

Hybrids:

Allelopathy:

Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by seed.

Origin and History:

South West Europe, Mediterranean

Distribution:

ACT, NSW, SA, VIC.
Recorded but not thought to be naturalised in WA.

Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium.

Habitats:

Climate:

Temperate

Soil:

Mallee soils.

Plant Associations:

Significance:

Beneficial:

Detrimental:

Weed of crops, pastures and disturbed areas.

Toxicity:

Possibly toxic but field cases rare.

Symptoms:

Treatment:

Legislation:

None.

Management and Control:

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

Thresholds:

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:

None reported.

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris)
Five-wounded Catchfly (Silene gallica var. quinquevulnera) has red and white petals.
French Catchfly (Silene gallica) is very similar but more 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:

References:

Bodkin, F. (1986). Encyclopaedia Botanica. (Angus and Robertson, Australia).

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

Everist, S.L. (1974). Poisonous Plants of Australia. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney).

Harden, Gwen J. (1991). Flora of NSW. (Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney). Volume 1. P271. Diagram.

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

Lazarides, M. and Cowley, K. and Hohnen, P. (1997). CSIRO handbook of Australian Weeds. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #928.2.

Moerkerk, M.R. and Barnett, A.G. (1998). More Crop Weeds. R.G. and F.J. Richardson, Melbourne. P76. Diagrams. Photos.

Acknowledgments:

Collated by HerbiGuide. Phone 08 98444064 or www.herbiguide.com.au for more information.