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Moss Campion Silene acaulis


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Moss Campion
credit: Roland Teuscher/CCSA

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Alternate name: Cushion-pink

Family: Caryophyllaceae, Carnation view all from this family

Description Dwarf plant, forming dense mossy cushions or mats, with solitary pink to violet flowers at the ends of leafy branches.
Habit: native perennial herb; woody base; taprooted.
Height: 1-3 in
Leaf: basal, linear, sharply pointed, dense, 0.3-0.5 in (8-12 mm) long, evergreen.
Flower: pink to lavender to violet (rarely white), 5-parted, terminal; petals notched to slightly lobed.
Fruit: capsule, cylindrical, tan, 0.04 in (1 mm) long.

Flower June to August.

Flower June - August

Habitat Arctic and alpine tundra, gravelly soils, often wet places, rocky ledges; to 14,000 ft (4200 m); widely cultivated as an ornamental.

Range Alaska south to Nevada and Arizona, east to New Mexico, north to Saskatchewan and arctic Canada; Ontario east to New Hampshire, Maine, and Labrador.

Discussion Also known as cushion pink, carpet pink. Several subspecies and varieties have been proposed. Possibly extirpated in Maine. This beautiful little mountain-dwelling wildflower forms extensive moss-like carpets in the western mountains but appears only locally in the East, where Mt. Washington in New Hampshire is its southern limit. Silene acaulis displays "compass flowering", developing flowers on the southfacing part of the cushion first, later on the north side.

Comments This is a trouble-free, rock garden plant.

Exposure Preference Sun.

Native Distribution Circumpolar (var. exscapa), s. in N. America to Oregon, Idaho, n. Montana & New Hampshire; extending s. in the Rockies to New Mexico & Arizona as var. subacaulescens

Site Preference Moist, chalky rock crevices in high mts.

Soil Preference Rich, scree soil.