Night-flowering Catchfly - Silene noctiflora

    Alt Name
    Clammy Cockle

    This plant has a glandular stem up to about 75 or 80 cm in maximum height which is sticky in texture. The hairy, widely lance-shaped leaves grow in opposite pairs and are up to 14 cm long and 5 cm wide, the largest ones located low on the stem. The flowers are nocturnal, and occur in an open cyme of up to fifteen blooms, each borne on an erect pedicel. The flower is encapsulated in a hairy calyx of fused sepals lined with a netlike pattern of veining. The five petals are whitish to pink and each has two lobes at the tip. They measure up to 2.5 cm wide when fully open. The fruit is a yellowish-brown capsule with six chambers which splits open to release the seeds.

    Similar Species

    some other rare Silene are similar

    Identification difficulty
    ID guidance

    See key in Stace. The upper part of the flower-head is sticky, and calyx-teeth have broad, papery ('scarious') margins

    Recording advice

    Photos of the plant in its habitat, with detail of calyx 


    Arable land on calcareous soils.

    When to see it

    June to August.

    Life History

    Annual. As night falls the flowers of the night-flowering catchfly open and release a strong fragrance which attracts night-flying moths which feed on the copious nectar and pollinate the plant.

    UK Status

    Found mainly in central and southern England and even here it is decreasing.

    VC55 Status

    Uncommon and local in Leicestershire and Rutland. In the 1979 Flora survey of Leicestershire it was found in 4 of the 617 tetrads.

    In the current checklist (Jeeves, 2011) it is listed as Alien (archaeophyte); arable land on the Oolitic limestone, occasional.

    It is on the Rare Plant Register

    Leicestershire & Rutland Map

    MAP KEY:

    Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
    Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

    UK Map