Red Campion

A recognisable flower of the hedgerows, the flowers of Red Campion (Silene dioica) were said to resemble buttons.

The Latin name Silene comes from the drunken Greek god Silenus, although the plant was considered anything but merry in folklore.

Red Campion had a dubious reputation in some parts of Britain, where people believed picking the flower would bring bad luck.

Children believed they would be killed by lightning if they picked the flowers.

In Wales, the plant was known as snakebite and picking it was thought to lead to getting bitten by snakes or causing snakes to come into the house.

Red Campion, like bluebells, had associations with fairies or goblins and their mischief

Scientific Name

Silene dioica

Family

Caryophyllaceae

Botanical Description

The varied species of campion display small red, pink, and white flowers with various attractive leaves and stems. 

Red Campion has small button-like pink flowers with short round green leaves and long erect stems.

Status

Perennial. Native.

Habitat and Distribution

Red Campion is found in hedgerows and roadsides in Britain, Europe and Asia.

Parts Used for Food

Leaves, flowers, shoots.

Harvest Time

April.

Food Uses of Red Campion

Red Campion leaves are an ingredient of pistic, a traditional spring dish eaten in northern Italy.

Red Campion wine was made in 20th-century Britain by boiling oranges, lemons, red campion flowers and leaves with barley and sugar.

The young shoots can be blanched to reduce their bitterness and made into a puree similar to spinach.

You can add the leaves of the plant to various dishes, including salads, soups, stews, sauces, herbal cheeses and even as a substitute for asparagus.

Nutritional Profile

Unknown

Herbal Medicine Uses of Red Campion

Campions (of any species) were used to treat internal bleeding, kidney disease, sores and ulcers, and stings.

Healers also used it to treat warts and corns.

In Spain and Italy, the plant was used for digestive disorders.

Safety Note

There is little information about the side effects of using Silene species during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

References

Couplan, F. (1998) The encyclopedia of edible plants of North America. New Canaan: Keats Pub.

Culpeper, N. & Foster, S. (2019) Culpeper’s complete herbal.

Facciola, S. (1998) Cornucopia II: a source book of edible plants. Vista: Kampong Publications.

Hatfield, G. (2008) Hatfield’s herbal: the secret history of British plants. London: Penguin.

Luczaj, L. & Pieroni, A. (2016) ‘Nutritional ethnobotany in Europe: from emergency foods to healthy folk cuisines and contemporary foraging trends’, in María de Cortes Sánchez-Mata & Javier Tardío (eds.) Mediterranean Wild Edible Plants. New York: Springer. pp. 33–56.

Turner, N. J. et al. (2011) Edible and tended wild plants, traditional ecological knowledge and agroecology. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences. [Online] 30 (1–2), 198–225.

Watts, D. (2007) Dictionary of plant lore. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Comment

    • > “thought my eyes were playing tricks.”

      Indeed! The kind we have in our back yard (Victoria, B.C.) are the most intense red I have ever seen in a flower of that small size. IIRC, humming birds like these flowers as well.

      Barbara

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