Night-flowering Catchfly - Silene noctiflora

Alternative names
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

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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


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

UK Map